Brain Disease Deaths High in NFL Veterans

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  • NEW YORK (AP) — A study of former NFL players finds they were unusually prone to dying from degenerative brain disease, the latest indication that repeated blows to the head may cause serious trouble later on.

    The death rate from Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Lou Gehrig's disease combined was about three times what one would predict from the general population, researchers reported.

    Prior research had suggested football players were unusually prone to those diseases, said lead researcher Everett Lehman of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which is part of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    The study, reported online Wednesday in the journal Neurology, looked at death certificates.

    It drew on a long-running study of more than 3,400 NFL players with at least five playing seasons in the league between 1959 and 1988. Some 334 had died by the end of 2007, the cutoff for being included in the study. Researchers compared their death rates from various causes to that of a comparable group of American men.

    One or another of the three brain diseases was listed as the underlying cause of death in 10 cases, which is about three times the general rate for American men, the researchers reported.

    Researchers noted that the study can't prove that the results were caused by football-related concussions, and that they may not apply to pro or amateur players who've played fewer than five years.

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