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Prevalence and Characterization of Mild Cognitive Impairment in Retired National Football League Players

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 August 2013

Christopher Randolph*
Department of Neurology, Loyola University Medical Center, Maywood, Illinois
Stella Karantzoulis
Department of Neurology, New York University Langone Medical Center, New York, New York
Kevin Guskiewicz
Department of Exercise and Sport Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina Center for the Study of Retired Athletes, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Correspondence and reprint requests to: Christopher Randolph, 1 East Erie, Suite 353, Chicago, IL 60611. E-mail:


It has been hypothesized that exposure to repetitive head trauma from contact sports over a long-playing career may eventuate in an increased risk of late-life cognitive impairment. There are currently two competing hypotheses about the possible mechanism underlying such impairment. One is the presence of a unique neurodegenerative disorder known as “chronic traumatic encephalopathy” (CTE). The other is diminished cerebral reserve leading to the earlier clinical expression of age-related neurodegenerative diseases such as mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer's disease (AD). The present study examined informant AD8 inventory data in a sample of 513 retired National Football League (NFL) players. These data were indicative of possible cognitive impairment in 35.1% of this relatively young sample. A comparison of neurocognitive profiles in a subsample of this group to a clinical sample of patients with a diagnosis of MCI due to AD revealed a highly similar profile of impairments. Overall, the data suggest that there may be an increased prevalence of late-life cognitive impairment in retired NFL players, which may reflect diminished cerebral reserve. The findings are considered preliminary, but emphasize the need for larger, controlled studies on this issue. (JINS, 2013, 19, 1–8)

Research Articles
Copyright © The International Neuropsychological Society 2013 

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