NFL Seasons of Play, Playing Position Affect Mental Health

Seasons of professional play and playing position in NFL linked to cognition-related quality of life

FRIDAY, Aug. 30, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- For football players in the National Football League, seasons of play and playing position are associated with lasting neuropsychiatric health deficits, according to a study published online Aug. 30 in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

Andrea Roberts, Ph.D., M.P.H., from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues examined whether seasons of professional football, playing position, and experience of concussions correlated with cognition-related quality of life (QOL) and indicators of depression and anxiety using data from 3,506 former football players.

The researchers observed correlations for seasons of professional play (risk ratio per five seasons, 1.19; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.06 to 1.34; P < 0.01) and playing position with cognition-related QOL. A 9 percent increase in the risk for indicators of depression was seen for each five seasons of play (risk ratio, 1.09; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.00 to 1.1; P = 0.05). The risk for poor cognition-related QOL, depression, and anxiety were increased for men who played any other position compared with former kickers, punters, and quarterbacks. Even 20 years after last professional play, there were strong correlations for concussion symptoms with poor cognition-related QOL, depression, and anxiety (risk ratios, 22.2, 6.0, and 6.4 for the highest quartile, respectively; all P < 0.0001).

"Our results underscore the importance of preventing concussions, vigilant monitoring of those who suffer them, and finding new ways to mitigate the damage from head injury," Roberts said in a statement.

One author is listed as an inventor on several patents on real-time integration of transcranial magnetic stimulation with electroencephalography and magnetic resonance imaging.

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