Football and brain injury

A new study in JAMA on the harms of football is the most damning one I have seen thus far. They find that number of years of football is inversely related to Hippocampal (brain) volume, and reduced reaction speed (in the detailed outcomes, players with concussions were worse than those without on most all outcomes; but matched controls were better than both player categories so there are independent effects of exposure to football and concussion). The summary figures showing the impact of years of playing on brain volume and reaction time:

ScreenHunter_01 May. 20 09.41

There are many caveats and cautions in the paper, as appropriate:

  • Small sample size. N=25 college football players with concussion history + N=25 players without, and N=25 matched controls.
  • The two groups of players (diagnosed concussion v not) may not accurately represent history of brain injury.
  • In particular, how to determine the appropriate matches in a study like this is important because there can be many confounders.
  • This study is cross sectional and longitudinal data are needed

Still, this is a sobering study for those (like me) who love football.

About Don Taylor
Professor of Public Policy at Duke University (with appointments in Business, Nursing, Community and Family Medicine, and the Duke Clinical Research Institute). I am one of the founding faculty of the Margolis Center for Health Policy, and currently serve as Chair of Duke's University Priorities Committee (UPC). My research focuses on improving care for persons who are dying, and I am co-PI of a CMMI award in Community Based Palliative Care. I teach both undergrads and grad students at Duke. On twitter @donaldhtaylorjr

3 Responses to Football and brain injury

  1. Pingback: In defense of football | freeforall

  2. Pingback: In defense of football

  3. Pingback: Head Trauma in High School Football Practices | freeforall

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