Cognitive Impairment Seen in Overweight Retired NFL Players

Overweight retired football players have decreased blood flow in certain areas of the brain

THURSDAY, Jan. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Overweight retired National Football League (NFL) players have decreased blood flow in certain areas of the brain as well as significant decreases in attention, cognitive proficiency, and memory, according to a study published online Jan. 17 in Translational Psychiatry.

Kristen C. Willeumier, M.D., of Amen Clinics in Newport Beach, Calif., and colleagues investigated the effects of body mass (measured by waist-to-height ratio) on regional cerebral blood flow in retired NFL players. Differences in blood flow were measured by computed tomography imaging and compared for 38 normal weight and 38 overweight athletes (mean age, 58 years).

The researchers found that a higher waist-to-height ratio was associated with decreased blood flow in the prefrontal cortex (Brodmann areas 8, 9, and 10) and deficits in the temporal pole. Overweight athletes had significant reductions in attention, memory, and general cognitive proficiency.

"Our cohort of overweight NFL players [demonstrates] decreased performance in the areas of attention and cognitive functioning upon neuropsychological evaluation," the authors write. "If this finding is replicated it indicates that proper weight education and management may be essential to the future health of athletes who have been exposed to repetitive brain trauma."

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