Former football players prone to late-life health problems, MU study finds

November 09, 2011

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Football players experience repeated head trauma throughout their careers, which results in short and long-term effects to their cognitive function, physical and mental health. University of Missouri researchers are investigating how other lifestyle factors, including diet and exercise, impact the late-life health of former collision-sport athletes.

The researchers found that former football players experience more late-life cognitive difficulties and worse physical and mental health than other former athletes and non-athletes. In addition, former football players who consumed high-fat diets had greater cognitive difficulties with recalling information, orientation and engaging and applying ideas. Frequent, vigorous exercise was associated with higher physical and mental health ratings.

"While the negative effects of repeated collisions can't be completely reversed, this study suggests that former athletes can alter their lifestyle behaviors to change the progression of cognitive decline," said Pam Hinton, associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology. "Even years after they're done playing sports, athletes can improve their diet and exercise habits to improve their mental and physical health."

In the study, Hinton compared former collision sport (football) players to former non-collision- sport athletes and non-athletes. Participants were given questionnaires to assess their cognitive, mental and physical health. The researchers examined how players' current lifestyle habits negatively or positively affected their collision-related health problems. Former football players who consumed more total and saturated fat and cholesterol reported more cognitive difficulties than those who consumed less fat and had better dietary habits.

"Football will always be around, so it's impossible to eliminate head injuries; however, we can identify ways to reduce the detrimental health effects of repeated head trauma," Hinton said. "It's important to educate athletes and people who work with athletes about the benefits of low-fat and balanced diets to help players improve their health both while playing sports and later in life. It's a simple, but not an easy thing to do."
-end-
Hinton is the director of graduate studies for the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology in the College of Human Environmental Sciences (HES). The department is a joint effort by HES, the School of Medicine and the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

The study, "Effects of Current Exercise and Diet on Late-Life Cognitive Health of Former College Football Players," is published in the current issue of Physician and Sportsmedicine. In future studies, the researchers plan to increase the sample size and have participants perform tests to measure cognitive functioning instead of utilizing self-reported measures.

University of Missouri-Columbia

Related Mental Health Articles from Brightsurf:

Mental health strained by disaster
A new study found that suicide rates increase during all types of disasters -- including severe storms, floods, hurricanes and ice storms -- with the largest overall increase occurring two years after a disaster.

The mental health impact of pandemics for front line health care staff
New research shows the impact that pandemics have on the mental health of front-line health care staff.

World Mental Health Day -- CACTUS releases report of largest researcher mental health survey
On the occasion of 'World Mental Health Day' 2020, CACTUS, a global scientific communications company, has released a global survey on mental health, wellbeing and fulfilment in academia.

Mental illness, mental health care use among police officers
A survey study of Texas police officers examines how common mental illness and mental health care use are in a large urban department.

COVID-19 outbreak and mental health
The use of online platforms to guide effective consumption of information, facilitate social support and continue mental health care delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic is discussed in this Viewpoint.

COVID-19 may have consequences for mental health
The COVID-19 pandemic appears to be adversely affecting mental health among hospitalised patients, the healthcare professionals treating them and the general population.

Mental health outcomes among health care workers during COVID-19 pandemic in Italy
Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and insomnia among health care workers in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic are reported in this observational study.

Mental ill health 'substantial health concern' among police, finds international study
Mental health issues among police officers are a 'substantial health concern,' with around 1 in 4 potentially drinking at hazardous levels and around 1 in 7 meeting the criteria for post traumatic stress disorder and depression, finds a pooled data analysis of the available international evidence, published online in Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

Examining health insurance nondiscrimination policies with mental health among gender minority individuals
A large private health insurance database was used to examine the association between between health insurance nondiscrimination policies and mental health outcomes for gender minority individuals.

Mental health care for adolescents
Researchers examined changes over time in the kinds of mental health problems for which adolescents in the United States received care and where they got that care in this survey study with findings that should be interpreted within the context of several limitations including self-reported information.

Read More: Mental Health News and Mental Health Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.