Participation in Pre-High School Football and Neurological, Neuroradiological, and Neuropsychological Findings in Later Life: A Study of 45 Retired National Football League Players

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Background:A recent study found that an earlier age of first exposure (AFE) to tackle football was associated with long-term neurocognitive impairment in retired National Football League (NFL) players.Purpose:To assess the association between years of exposure to pre-high school football (PreYOE) and neuroradiological, neurological, and neuropsychological outcome measures in a different sample of retired NFL players.Study Design:Cross-sectional study; Level of evidence, 3.Methods:Forty-five former NFL players were included in this study. All participants prospectively completed extensive history taking, a neurological examination, brain magnetic resonance imaging, and a comprehensive battery of neuropsychological tests. To measure the associations between PreYOE and these outcome measures, multiple regression models were utilized while controlling for several covariates.Results:After applying a Bonferroni correction for multiple comparisons, none of the neurological, neuroradiological, or neuropsychological outcome measures yielded a significant relationship with PreYOE. A second Bonferroni-corrected analysis of a subset of these athletes with self-reported learning disability yielded no significant relationships on paper-and-pencil neurocognitive tests but did result in a significant association between learning disability and computerized indices of visual motor speed and reaction time.Conclusion:The current study failed to replicate the results of a prior study, which concluded that an earlier AFE to tackle football might result in long-term neurocognitive deficits. In 45 retired NFL athletes, there were no associations between PreYOE and neuroradiological, neurological, and neuropsychological outcome measures.

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