Concussions and Cognitive Performance

Former NFL players study shows concussion impacts decades after retirement

Illustration of a chalkboard that reads "Concussions" with a brain and a football nearby
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Former professional football players who reported experiencing concussion symptoms during their playing careers were found to perform worse on a battery of cognitive tests than nonplayers, according to a study led by Harvard Medical School investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, McLean Hospital, and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.

Results of the study were published March 2 in Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology.

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Of the more than 350 former National Football League players who were studied as part of the Football Players Health Study at Harvard University an average of 29 years after their playing careers ended, those who reported experiencing concussion symptoms during their careers scored worse on assessments of episodic memory, sustained attention, processing speed, and vocabulary.

The number of concussions diagnosed by a medical professional or length of playing career, however, had no observed effect on cognition.