YIKES: Study finds brain activity of former NFL players varies greatly from that of non-players

Published on October 19, 2013

A recent study discovered the brain activity of former NFL players is abnormal when compared to non-football players.

The revelation comes after Imperial College London researchers compared the brains of 13 unnamed former footballers to 60 healthy individuals and found that the activity in the frontal lobe of the former players’ brains differed significantly from that of the non-players.

The frontal lobe is responsible for the cognitive processes in the brain, abnormalities in activity can lead to difficulties with planning and other everyday tasks, the study said.

Scientists conducted a study where all participants had to rearrange colored balls into multiple tubes in the fewest possible steps while undergoing an MRI, the College explained in a release detailing the findings.

Though the former players performed slightly worse than the volunteers, their brain activity differed dramatically.

‘The NFL alumni showed some of the most pronounced abnormalities in brain activity that I have ever seen, and I have processed a lot of patient data sets in the past,’ lead study author Dr Adam Hampshire said.

The difference was striking enough that a computer program was able to differentiate between former gridiron greats and Average Joes with a 90 per cent success rate, the study said.

Scientists determined the increased frontal lobe activity was the result of repeated blows to the head during football games.

‘The critical fact is that the level of brain abnormality correlates strongly with the measure of head impacts of great enough severity to warrant being taken out of play,’ Dr Hampshire explained.

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