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NFL Players At Higher Risk of Dying from Alzheimer's and ALS

Update Date: Sep 06, 2012 12:49 PM EDT

According to a study released by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), parents should think twice before letting their sons career as a highschool football star turn professional.

New research shows that professional football players may be at a higher risk of death from diseases that damage the cells in the brain, such as Alzheimer's disease and ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease), compared to the general U.S. Population.

In a study that included 3,439 ex- National Football League (NFL) players aged 57 plus with at least five active playing seasons from 1959-1988.

Research found that most professional players in this study were as much as three times more likely to die as a result of diseases that damage brain cells compared to the general population, and four times higher risk of death from Alzheimer's and ALS than the general public.

At the time of the analysis, only 10 percent (334) of the participants had passed away. Of the 334 who died, seven had Alzheimer's disease and seven had ALS.

Researchers also noted that theses risks differed by positions played. Non-line "speed" players, which includes quarterbacks, running backs, halfbacks, fullbacks, wide receivers, tight ends, defensive backs, safeties and linebackers were more than three times more likely to die from nuerodegenerative causes than non-speed position players.

Associated Press reports that the NFL announced a donation of $30 million for medical research to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, the fundraising arm of the NIH.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, AP notes, could benefit athletes and potential areas of study may include CTE, concussion management and treatment and disorders from later in life such as Alzheimer's.

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