NFL donates money to brain injury research

In our last post, we reported that thousands of former professional football players have sued the National Football League, alleging that the NFL knew the players were at risk of brain injuries from multiple concussions, but hid the information from the players. The players involved in the lawsuits all say they suffer from moderate to severe brain injuries as a result of playing in the NFL.

In a related story, the NFL recently pledged to donate $30 million to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, the nation’s leading medical research group. Ironically, on the same day the donation was announced, the NIH released a report indicating that former NFL players have an abnormal likelihood of dying as a result of degenerative brain disease.

Degenerative brain diseases include Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s, which are all about three times more common among former NFL players than they are among the general public, the NIH reported. The NIH’s study involved more than 3,400 retired football players who were in the NFL for at least five playing seasons between 1959 and 1988. The cutoff for the study was 2007, a which point 334 former players had died.

A brain disease that has been recently linked to football players is chronic traumatic encephalopathy. NIH’s recently-released study did not look for this disease specifically, but researchers said some of the deaths may have been misdiagnosed and actually caused by CTE. Some of the money the NFL donated to the NIH is supposed to go towards CTE research.

A spokeswoman from the NIH said the NFL’s donation will help sponsor brain injury research that will benefit former football players, veterans and the general public.

Source: Star Tribune, “NFL pledges $30 million for medical research to national health institution,” Sept. 5, 2012