A new study in JAMA Neurology found that cognitive issues, depression, and alcoholism do not afflict former high school football players any more than they do their non-playing counterparts.
The study published in the 57-year-old journal published by the American Medical Association looked at a massive sample group of 3,904 Wisconsin high school football players from the 1950s with an average age of 65. The researchers found “no statistically significant harmful association of playing football” with reduced cognitive abilities, depression, or alcoholism, which often afflicts men suffering from neurological issues.
“Cognitive and depression outcomes later in life were found to be similar for high school football players and their nonplaying counterparts from mid-1950s in Wisconsin,” the scientists and scholars from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Stanford University, and New York University, among other institutions, report. “The risks of playing football today might be different than in the 1950s, but for current athletes, this study provides information on the risk of playing sports today that have a similar risk of head trauma as high school football played in the 1950s.”
“Association of Playing Football High School Football” rebuts sensationalistic claims made in the popular press.
“I’m really wondering where this stops,” Boston University’s Ann McKee remarked of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurological condition found in the brains of several dozen deceased NFL players, in the PBS “League of Denial” documentary. “I’m really wondering on some level if every football player doesn’t have this.”
Bennet Omalu, depicted by Will Smith in the movie Concussion, guesses that more than 90 percent of NFL players suffer from CTE. “If any coach asks my son to play football,” he told Time magazine, “I’ll sue that coach, and I’ll sue the school.”
Participation in high school football, after witnessing decades of growth, experienced declines in recent years, according to the High School Athletics Participation Survey published annually by the National Federation of High School Associations.