Change in body mass index and neurocognitive effects in retired NFL players
Schmitt, Alyssa M.
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Contact sport athletes can experience thousands of repetitive head impacts (RHI) in their career. Retired NFL players have been found to be suffering from depression, mood/behavior changes, and cognition deficits that are linked to underlying neurological impairment from RHIs, including the neurodegenerative disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine received funding from the National Institutes of Health to create the DETECT study to examine methods of diagnosing CTE during life and to examine the possible risk factors for CTE and other long-term consequences of RHI. This study examined the association between change in body mass index (BMI) and cognitive impairment in retired NFL players. The cohort was 95 retired NFL players between the ages of 40-69 who have a minimal 12 years of football experience and minimal 2 years in the NFL. The participants underwent a 2-3 hour neuropsychological battery. Change in BMI was from the time of retirement (height and weight available on the NFL website archive of historical players) and from time of the DETECT study visit (height and weight recorded by nurses on digital scales). The results found significance between greater change in BMI and decline in psychomotor speed/executive functioning (p=0.038). There was also significance between WAIS Digit symbol coding test and BMI change (p=0.043). The results show that greater positive change in BMI have negative consequences on retired NFL player’s cognitive functioning.