A New Study Reveals Abnormally Low Blood Flow To NFL Players' Brains

 

With concern growing in recent years about the long-term impact of head trauma in the NFL, a new study has revealed abnormal areas of low blood flow in the brains of current and retired professional football players.

Researchers made their discovery using sophisticated neuroimaging and analytics, according to the study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.


With concern growing in recent years about the long-term impact of head trauma in the NFL, a new study has revealed abnormal areas of low blood flow in the brains of current and retired professional football players.

Researchers made their discovery using sophisticated neuroimaging and analytics, according to the study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

“Our findings raise the potential for better diagnosis and treatment for people with football-related head trauma,” says lead author Daniel G. Amen, MD, founder and head of Amen Clinics (www.amenclinics.com) in Costa Mesa, Calif.

The study examined the brains of 161 retired and current NFL players, the largest group of players investigated to date. Their average age was 52.

The researchers looked at every region of the brain and were able to identify areas of abnormally low blood flow. They did this using cerebral-perfusion imaging with SPECT (single-photon emission computed tomography.)

Combining this information with a leading-edge quantitative approach called machine learning, the researchers were able to distinguish NFL players with abnormal brain patterns compared to a healthy control group with 92 to 94 percent accuracy.

 “Without functional imaging studies like SPECT, it is very difficult to know if brain trauma is present and which areas are affected,” Amen says.

“Structural studies often appear normal, but what we can do better with functional neuroimaging with SPECT is not only pinpoint specific areas of the brain that are unhealthy with low blood flow, but also demonstrate their improvement with successful brain-rehabilitation treatments in persons like football players.”

Concern about head trauma in professional football players has risen in recent years, and was the subject of the 2015 feature film “Concussion” starring Will Smith. Dr. Bennet Omalu, whom Smith portrayed in the movie, was one of the co-authors of this study.

“What our current work is doing in addition to other imaging modalities builds the foundation between identifying the negative effects of head trauma on the brain while the patient is still alive so that we can intervene with better treatments,” Omalu says.

Investigators determined that on average the NFL players had lower blood flow in 36 areas of the brain. The decreased blood flow in six regions of the brain was the most important in determining who had football-related health trauma. Those brain regions were: anterior superior temporal lobes, rolandic operculum, insula, superior temporal poles, precuneus and cerebellar vermis.

These same regions function in memory, mood, and learning. When damaged, they can produce cognitive and psychiatric problems as evidenced by the fact that 83 percent of players in this study had memory problems and 29 percent had a history of depression.

Previous studies in which the brains of deceased players were studied revealed high incidents of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), a progressive degenerative disease that afflicts people who have suffered repeated concussions and traumatic brain injuries.

                                                                        ###

NOTES FOR EDITORS

“Perfusion Neuroimaging Abnormalities Alone Distinguish National Football League Players from a Healthy Population,” by Daniel G. Amen, Kristen Willeumier, Bennet Omalu, Andrew Newberg, Cauligi Raghavendra, and Cyrus A. Raji, DOI: 10.3233/JAD-160207, published online ahead of Volume 53, Issue 1 of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, by IOS Press.

Full text of the paper is available to credentialed journalists upon request by contacting Daphne Watrin at +31 20 688 3355 or d.watrin@iospress.nl.

About Amen Clinics

Amen Clinics Inc. (www.amenclinics.com) was established in 1989 by Daniel G. Amen, MD, a highly acclaimed brain health advocate, double board certified psychiatrist, and 10-time New York Times bestselling author. Amen Clinics Inc. is one of the world leaders in applying brain imaging science, with locations in Orange County, Calif., Atlanta, San Francisco, New York City, Washington, D.C., and the Seattle area

 Natalie Buchoz

Director of Publicity 

Amen Clinics

nbuchoz@amenclinic.com

(714) 421-3778

Amen Clinics Inc. (www.amenclinics.com) was established in 1989 by Daniel G. Amen, MD, a highly acclaimed brain health advocate, double board certified psychiatrist, and 10-time New York Times bestselling author. Amen Clinics Inc. is one of the world leaders in applying brain imaging science, with locations in Orange County, Calif., Atlanta, San Francisco, New York City, Washington, D.C., and the Seattle area.

Subscribe

Media

Media