Researchers at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health have found that former National Football League players are more likely to die due to diseases that damage the brain cells.
In the study, published in the journal Neurology, the researchers wrote that former NFL players were at a greater risk of suffering from mental disorders such as Alzheimer's disease or Lou Gehrig's disease due to the repeated blows that they took to their heads during their playing careers.
The researchers followed nearly 3,500 former players who had played for at least five years between 1959 and 1988 and found that of the 334 players who had died, seven had Alzheimer's disease and seven others had Lou Gehrig's disease listed on their death certificates.
The researchers also found that people who played in the 'speed' positions, such as quarterbacks or fullbacks, were three times more likely to die due to a brain related disease compared to players in other positions.
"There are probably other factors involved, such as other environmental exposures or genetic factors, but we are in the very early stages of knowing how those may be involved. Our results may not be generalizable to shorter-term professional players or to college or high school players", lead researcher Everett Lehman said.