Concussions and Long-Term Health
Organizations continued to publish study results that linked repeated concussions and long-term
health problems contrary to reports by the MTBI Committee. A 2003 report by the Center for the
Study of Retired Athletes at the University of North Carolina, for example, found a connection
between numerous concussions and depression among former professional football players.
Further, the Center's follow-up study in 2005 associated both brain impairment and Alzheimer's
disease with retired NFL players who had histories of concussions.
In addition to the studies that continued to contradict the work of the MTBI Committee,
renowned experts and sports journalists wrote critical reviews of the Committee's studies. Dr.
Robert Cantu of the American College of Sports Medicine noted bias in the committee's
extremely small sample size and held that no conclusions should be drawn from the NFL's
studies. In an ESPN Magazine article titled "Doctor Yes," Peter Keating criticized Pellman and
the MTBI Committee's work and argued that the "… Committee has drawn a number of
important conclusions about head trauma and how to treat it that contradict the research and
experiences of many other doctors who treat sports concussions, not to mention the players who
have suffered them."
More studies continued to associate repetitive head injuries with neurological problems later in
life. Dr. Kevin Guskiewicz, Director of the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes in the
Department of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of North Carolina, analyzed data
from a 2007 study of nearly 2,500 former NFL players. He found about 11 percent of the study
participants suffered from clinical depression, with a threefold increased risk in former players
who had a history of three or four concussions. The following year, the NFL commissioned the
University of Michigan Institute for Social Research to conduct a study involving more than
1,000 former NFL players. The results reported that Alzheimer's disease or similar diseases
appear to have been diagnosed in former NFL players vastly more often than in the general
population at a rate of 19 times the normal rate for men ages 30 through 49. The NFL responded
to these results by claiming the study was incomplete.
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