Prevalence and characterization of mild cognitive impairment in retired national football league players

J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2013 Sep;19(8):873-80. doi: 10.1017/S1355617713000805. Epub 2013 Aug 1.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / epidemiology*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / etiology*
  • Football / injuries*
  • Humans
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Retirement* / psychology
  • Retirement* / statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies