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.
Keywords: National Football League; concussion; exposure; football; youth.
© 2016 The Author(s).