A new study that examined men who were high school football players in Wisconsin in the late 1950s has determined that “cognitive and depression outcomes later in life were found to be similar for high school football players and their nonplaying counterparts.”
Playing football was not a “major risk factor” for cognitive impairment or depression at ages 65, the study concluded.
The study published in the Journal of American Medical Association Neurology this week examined nearly 4,000 men who graduated from high schools in Wisconsin in 1957 and tested their verbal skills, memory and cognition.
The research showed no statistically significant difference among the football players from non-players in cognition score or outcomes such as heavy alcohol use. The football players were shown to have fewer symptoms of depression.
Of note, football today and football in the 1950s are not the same from the playing rules to the equipment to speed of the game. The study’s authors note: “The risks of playing football today might be different than in the 1950s, but for current athletes, this study provides information on the risk of playing sports today that have a similar risk of head trauma as high school football played in the 1950s.”
The authors write that further research is needed on the subject, especially related to potential differences based on position.
They also suggest additional studies on additional former players as they reach 65: “Repeating our analysis with a younger cohort as they reach 65 years of age may improve our understanding of how the risks of playing football have evolved over time.”