Playing American football before age 12 linked to later-life health impairment: study

Source: Xinhua| 2017-09-20 01:05:57|Editor: Mengjie
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 19 (Xinhua) -- People who play American football before the age of 12 are more likely to have impaired mood and behavior later in life, a U.S. study said Tuesday.

Researchers from the Boston University studied 214 former American football players, including 43 who played only through high school and 103 who played only through college.

The average age of the former players at the time of the study was 51.

Participants received telephone-administered cognitive tests and completed online measures of depression, behavioral regulation, apathy and executive functioning such as analyzing, planning, and organizing tasks.

The study showed that participation in youth football before age 12 increased the risk of problems with behavioral regulation, apathy and executive functioning by two-fold.

These participants also had more than three times the odds for depression.

"Overall, our study provides further evidence that playing American football before age 12, and being hit in the head repeatedly through tackle football during a critical time of brain development, is associated with later-life problems with mood and behavior," said Robert Stern, the corresponding author of the study.

The researchers were surprised to find no association between age of first exposure and cognitive function such as reasoning, memory, and attention, but they noted that this may have had to do with how they gathered their data.

Cognition was measured by using a brief test that was administered over the telephone, rather than a more thorough, in-person neuropsychological examination, such as that used in previous research, said Stern.

The researchers cautioned that the findings cannot be generalized beyond to female players or other contact sports. Because this is a cross-sectional observational study, it does not allow for conclusions about cause and effect.

"More research on this topic is needed before any recommendations on policy or rule changes can be made," Stern added.

The findings were published in the open access journal Translational Psychiatry.