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Study of HS Football Players in 1950s Shows No Increased Cognitive Risk at 65

By NFHS/Journal of the American Medical Association on October 23, 2017 football article Print

In August, the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) released the results of a study attempting to estimate the association of playing high school football with cognitive impairment and depression at 65 years of age. Nearly 4,000 men who both played high school football in 1957 in Wisconsin and nonplayers were assessed in various cognitive tests to determine if a participation in high school football led to long-term cognitive impairment.

From JAMA:

Key Points
Question: Does playing high school football have a statistically and clinically significant adverse association with cognitive impairment and depression at 65 years of age?

Findings: In this cohort study using data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study among men graduating high school in Wisconsin in 1957, there was no statistically or clinically significant harmful association between playing football in high school and increased cognitive impairment or depression later in life, on average.

Meaning: For men who attended high school in the late 1950s, playing high school football did not appear to be a major risk factor for later-life cognitive impairment or depression; for current athletes, this study provides information on the risk of playing sports today that have a similar head trauma exposure risk as high school football played in the 1950s.

To read more about the methodology and results, click here.