Preliminary study results show that almost 43% of retired National Football League (NFL) players showed traumatic brain injury (TBI) according to sophisticated neuroimaging. The longer they played, the more at risk they were. An advanced form of neuroimaging, DTI enables three-dimensional visualization and characterization of white matter and is an objective biomarker of TBI. The new analysis included 40 retired players, mean age 35.85 years. They had put in an average of 7 years in the NFL and had an average of just over 8 concussions, with 31% reporting numerous subconcussive hits. All had normal neurologic examinations.
Although it appeared that most players with positive DTI findings had neuropsychological deficits, the researchers could not statistically correlate the DTI MRI findings with the neuropsychological data. Interestingly, there was an inverse correlation between the number of years played and the number of concussions, and no correlation was seen between the number of concussions and positive DTI.