The association between concussions in American football and dementia
Concussion is typically described as a complex pathophysiological process affecting the brain, resulting from trauma or injury that is induced by biomechanical forces (McCrory et al., 2017). The impacts on the cerebrum associated with concussion can be particularly damaging and are linked to a lower life-expectancy (Gould, 2012), and can be fatal if not treated adequately (Amen et al., 2011). Each concussion is entirely unique and similarly, the side effects range significantly in different individuals. For example, cerebral pains, sluggishness, and memory loss may happen immediately, or in the days following the initial injury.
The risk of concussion is particularly high in American football players (Clay, Glover and Lowe, 2013). This increased prevalence, has meant concussions within the Nation Football League (NFL) and collegiate level football has become the centre of considerable attention since the mid 1990’s; termed by Harrison (2014) as ‘The Concussion Crisis’. In response, the principal ‘Mind Injury Committee’ was established in 1994 for the NFL (Ezell, 2020) aiming to XXXXXXX?. However, statistics for the number of the concussions in the NFL only date back to as recent as 2012, where 261 cases were recorded. A focal point and an area which received attention a century ago as a clinical issue among young individuals playing football, is now gaining attention by top universities and is currently a major issue of general wellbeing across all levels of play. The concussion rate in the NFL has diminished since 2012, although 2017 had the greatest number of cases, recording 281 competitors reported as experiencing concussions (Casson, Viano, Powell and Pellman, 2010).
Despite the relatively recent interest in concussion in football, there is evidence of early reporting of concussions back to 1883. In 1894, Penn footballer William Harvey expressed “the main genuine injury I got was in the game with Harvard in 1883”. He also made the following statement “when in a scrimmage behind the objective I was tackled, however retained awareness in around fifteen minutes.” (Harrison, 2014). DE – if this is a direct quote add the page numbers its from? This early documentation of concussion emergency in football highlights basic issues related to the type of arrangements instituted or if any arrangements were established for when these events occurred. Concussions in American football, which is a sport widely participated in among youth, secondary schools, universities, and on professional levels, is one small aspect of a much larger current issue relating to head injury in sports (Harrison, 2014).
Concussions in other sports.
When comparing the rates of concussion within football to other sports such as rugby, some fascinating results were drawn. A recent systematic review (Concussion Rate, 2020) which analysed the concussion rate in group activities, found that men’s rugby was found to have the most noteworthy rate of concussions in both match play (3.00/1,000 athletic exposure, AE) and practice (0.37/1,000 AE). These findings are not unexpected, given that as rugby players unlike NFL players do not wear any protective head gear during competitive match play or practice.
While investigating concussive head traumas within the previous 20 years, data shows that the frequency of these concussions have increased significantly (Cantu, 2006). However, it cannot be determined from these data how many of these individuals experimented multiple concussions. Macciocchi, Barth, Littlefield and Cantu, (2001) carried out a study with athletes who sustained one versus two concussions in competitive endeavours. They found that the impacts of two head collisions did appear to be greater than that of a solitary head injury. The neurocognitive and neurobehavioral outcomes of two concussions did not have all the earmarks of being essentially unique in relation to those of one concussion.
Despite the fact that one concussion does not seem to bring about critical dreariness (BrainLine, 2020), the impact of two or more is less clear. In an ongoing report, conducted by Collins (1999), a benchmark group configuration was utilized to look at competitors who had been diagnosed with one concussion versus with competitors who had a history of multiple concussions. They found that competitors who were diagnosed with a minimum of two concussions revealed more neurobehavioral manifestations and had more disability on neuropsychological tests than competitors who experienced a single concussion. However, there were no differences between competitors with a background of one concussion versus at least two concussions, on sound-related consideration, verbal familiarity, verbal learning, verbal memory, or fine motor dexterity (Collins, 1999). This suggests that repetitive concussions can be detrimental to an individual’s health.
McAllister et al., (2012) investigated collegiate football and ice hockey levels, comparing the outcomes surrounding non-contact and contact play on a variety of measures. Those considered contact athletes wore accelerometer-instrumented helmets and took pre- and post-season ImPACT tests. Participants completed a paper-and-pencil neuropsychological battery and also had preseason and postseason neuroimaging. Their results revealed that there was no significant difference amongst the sport groups. Previous exposure to one head trauma did not affect tests scores. However, the researchers did report that the contact-controlled group performed worse that the non-contact group on measure of new learning (California Verbal Learning Test).
Recent epidemiologic studies by McAllister and McCrea (2017) suggest that reoccurring head traumas are somewhat uncommon amongst athletes during play. However, there can be negative effects in recovery and return to play over the short-term compared with a first concussion. Additional exploration and further studies are needed as human studies of the neurologic and neuropsychological effects of repetitive impacts not associated with diagnosed concussion is currently quite limited.
Concussion and dementia
The relationship between sport related concussions and dementia is complex. Firstly, the term ‘dementia’ reflects the side effects of a significant accumulation of sicknesses which progresses into a dynamic decrease in an individual’s wellbeing. Some examples of this include the following impacts; loss of memory, astuteness, discernment, social aptitudes and physical working (Kenzie et al., 2017). Kindell, Keady, Sage and Wilkinson (2016) describe dementia as a syndrome initiated by a variety of conditions that affect the brain leading to problems with memory, language, understanding and judgment. Dementia is seminally described as a progressive condition affecting the neurological system that leads to development of cognitive deficits. It currently perceived to be progressive and incurable. In fact, the 18th century dementia was defined as lacking competence and being unable to manage personal affairs as identified in a study by Geary (2014). Dementia can have drastic lifechanging results and there is not currently a cure (Sait, 2013).
Previous research conducted by Blennow, Hardy and Zetterberg (2012) indicates that for certain athletes there might be severe and long-term effects of continuous head trauma injuries that have generally been viewed as mild. Nonetheless, it is realised that traumatic brain injury (TBIs) increase the risk of experiencing dementia, and that football players can endure TBIs all through their professional playing career (VanItallie, 2019). Dementia is a disease that may not be diagnosed immediately, until it has progressed to later stages (Geary 2014).
There is the presence of ever-increasing evidence that links sports related head injuries such as concussions to neurological problems and neurodegeneration later on in life (Dementia Four Times More Likely in Pro Football Players | ALZFORUM, 2012). Figures from the NFL show a staggeringly high proportion of players have been diagnosed with dementia (GIVE THE FIGURE) and is being identified more in players who have retired. Weir et al., (2009) compared retired NFL athletes to all US men and found that the prevalence of dementia for US men aged 30-49 was only 0.1% (diagnosed with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or other memory-related disease). For the age group of 50 plus for US men, 1.2% of the population were diagnosed. Comparing these figures to NFL retirees, for those aged 30-49, 1.9% of retired NFL were diagnosed with dementia or memory related disease. While in the age group of 50 plus, 6.1% of NFL retirees were diagnosed, suggesting a much higher prevalence of memory-related disease in ex-NFL players. However, there are limitations in this approach as the questionnaire used, ‘National Health Interview Survey’ is quite vague for memory related disease, making the interpretation of the questionnaire difficult. This limitation means that further research is needed to fully understand the associations between playing football and neurodegenerative diseases. However, overall, the findings highlight the detrimental impact concussions have on NFL athletes and further reinforces the importance of this area of study.
These results are not only seen in the NFL but are similar in other sports. A study conducted by Vann Jones, Breakey and Evans (2013) focused upon football athletes, and the motion of heading a football and effects on long term cognitive decline and dementia. A Test Your Memory (TYM) questionnaire was given to the athletes to fill out and their results found that, 10 of 92 respondents (10.87%) screened positive for possible mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or dementia. This shows how the problem of head injuries leading to cognitive issues is widespread across the sporting world, opposed to being limited to just the NFL alone.
Significance of work
The study into the impact concussions and the implications it causes in relational to the development of dementia has been an area of study which is greatly explored. However, the study of NFL players and how concussions they may have incurred could impact their likelihood of developing dementia is a lot more refined. This is reflected clearly in a study by Schwarz (2009) exploring the dementia risk NFL players face, reporting a clear relationship between football and dementia and other cognitive impairments. This area must be considered with great importance, especially due to the danger it poses to the athletes involved in the sport. It would be particularly important to athletes as they directly impacted by the detrimental effects. The National Football Players Association are also responsible for the wellbeing of the athletes. This could mean they would have to reinforce polices and regulations that enforce the safety of its players. This could include reviewing existing guidelines or adding new guidelines into place. Therefore, the aim of this study is to investigate the relationship between dementia and grass root level football. Previous studies have only looked a dementia above age 30, however, American football is played from grass root levels. Therefore, this work will look at earlier age groups and the implications of head injuries in relation to the early onset of dementia.
This study will include a total of 50 semi-professional American Football players, playing in the British American Football League. The participants will be selected randomly from the London Olympians AFC team with ages ranging from 18-45. GIVE DEETS ON WHETHER ALL MALE? DIFF ETHNICITIES?
I am looking at this age group as previous studies have failed to investigate younger age-groups despite current research stating dementia starts in the early 30’s. Young athletes are engaging in the same physical activities and there is no research looking into whether head injuries relate to early-onset dementia in this group.
Prior to the study, participants will be asked to read and sign an informed consent form as well as an information sheet. They will be informed that they can withdraw at any time from the study. All participants involved will be informed that all information they provide will be confidential and not used for any other reason besides the purpose of this study.
Qualitative data analysis involves the identification, examination, and interpretation of patterns and themes in data and determines how these Analysing Qualitative Data look for an outcome (Meriam, 1998). Participants will take part in 30-minute interview and answer open ended questions. I am using open ended questions to get a more thorough understanding of individual responses. As mentioned, before I am using this age group as there is a gap in the research which is reinforced by previous research conducted by…
Step 1 – is to read the transcripts. Browse through the transcripts, as a whole. Make notes about first impressions. Step 2 – Label relevant words, phrases, sentence or sections and/or something that is repeated in several places. Also, anything that is interesting in relation to the topic. This process is known and coding or indexing. A list of codes is made, and similar codes are put together to manage codes.
School of Health, Sport and Bioscience:
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“Do concussions or repetitive concussions in American football correlate to implications surrounding dementia”
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Alzforum.org. 2012. Dementia Four Times More Likely In Pro Football Players | ALZFORUM. [online] Available at: <https://www.alzforum.org/news/research-news/dementia-four-times-more-likely-pro-football-players> [Accessed 1 April 2020].
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Blennow, K., Hardy, J. and Zetterberg, H., 2012. The Neuropathology and Neurobiology of Traumatic Brain Injury. Neuron, 76(5), pp.886-899.
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Cantu, R., 2006. Sex Differences in Outcome Following Sports-Related Concussion. Yearbook of Sports Medicine, 2006, pp.36-37.
Clay, M.B., Glover, K.L. and Lowe, D.T., 2013. Epidemiology of concussion in sport: a literature review. Journal of chiropractic medicine, 12(4), pp.230-251.
Casson, I., Viano, D., Powell, J. and Pellman, E., 2010. Twelve Years of National Football League Concussion Data. Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach, 2(6), pp.471-483.
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Ezell, L., 2020. Timeline: The NFL’S Concussion Crisis – League Of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis – FRONTLINE. [online] FRONTLINE. Available at: <https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/sports/league-of-denial/timeline-the-nfls-concussion-crisis/> [Accessed 1 April 2020].
Geary, Jennifer, “A Literature Review of the Negative Impact of Dementia on the Nutritional Status of Hospitalized Elderly Patients” (2014). Honors Theses. 19. https://digitalcommons.salemstate.edu/honors_theses/19
Gould, W., 2012. Football, Concussions, and Preemption: The Gridironof National Football League Litigation. FIU Law Review, 8(1).
Harrison, E., 2014. The First Concussion Crisis: Head Injury and Evidence in Early American Football. American Journal of Public Health, 104(5), pp.822-833.
Kindell, J., Keady, J., Sage, K. and Wilkinson, R., 2016. Everyday conversation in dementia: a review of the literature to inform research and practice. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 52(4), pp.392-406.
Kenzie, E.S., Parks, E.L., Bigler, E.D., Lim, M.M., Chesnutt, J.C. and Wakeland, W. (2017). Concussion As a Multi-Scale Complex System: An Interdisciplinary Synthesis of Current Knowledge. Frontiers in Neurology, 8.
Library, C., 2020. NFL Concussions Fast Facts. [online] CNN. Available at: <https://edition.cnn.com/2013/08/30/us/nfl-concussions-fast-facts/index.html> [Accessed 31 March 2020].
McAllister, T.W., Flashman, L.A., Maerlender, A., Greenwald, R.M., Beckwith, J.G., Tosteson, T.D., Crisco, J.J., Brolinson, P.G., Duma, S.M., Duhaime, A.-C., Grove, M.R. and Turco, J.H. (2012). Cognitive effects of one season of head impacts in a cohort of collegiate contact sport athletes. Neurology, [online] 78(22), pp.1777–1784. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3359587/ [Accessed 6 Jan. 2020].
McAllister, T. and McCrea, M., 2017. Long-Term Cognitive and Neuropsychiatric Consequences of Repetitive Concussion and Head-Impact Exposure. Journal of Athletic Training, 52(3), pp.309-317.
Meriam, S. (1998). Qualitative research and case study applications in education: Revised and expanded from case study research in education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
N. Macciocchi, S., T. Barth,, J., Littlefield, L. and C. Cantu, R., 2001. Multiple Concussions and Neuropsychological Functioning in Collegiate Football Players. Journal Of Athletic Training, 36(3): 303–306.(PMC155422).
Sait, K., 2013. Head Injuries, Concussions And Dementia. [online] Dementia.org.au. Available at:<https://www.dementia.org.au/files/AlzNSW_Football_head_injuries__the_risk_of_dementia_final_130313_web.pdf> [Accessed 1 April 2020].
Schwarz, A., 2009. Dementia Risk Seen In Players In N.F.L. Study. [online] Livingdementia.com. Available at: <http://www.livingdementia.com/downloads/newsletters/2012/ny_times_2009_nfl_dementia.pdf> [Accessed 1 April 2020].
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Vann Jones, S., Breakey, R. and Evans, P., 2013. Heading in football, long-term cognitive decline and dementia: evidence from screening retired professional footballers. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 48(2), pp.159-161.
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