Concussion-Depression Risk for Players Studied
Football research is co-authored by WVU neurosurgeon

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Recurrent sport-related concussion appears to be related to an increased risk of clinical depression in retired professional football players, according to new research published in the June issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

Julian Bailes, M.D., chair of neurosurgery in the West Virginia University School of Medicine, is a co-author of the study, which was featured on page one of today’s (May 31) New York Times. Dr. Bailes has been invited by the National Football League to address team physicians and trainers at a meeting in Chicago later this month.

In the study, 2,552 retired professional football players completed a general health questionnaire, including information about prior injuries and other markers for depression.  A second questionnaire focusing on Mild Cognitive Impairment related issues was completed by a subset of 758 retired professional football players.

Of all respondents, 269 (11.1 percent) reported having prior or current diagnosis of clinical depression.  There was an association between recurrent concussion and diagnosis of depression, suggesting the prevalence increases with increasing concussion history.

 Julian Bailes, M.D., chair of neurosurgery in the West Virginia University School of Medicine

Compared to retired players without a history of concussion, retired players reporting three or more previous concussions were three times more likely to be diagnosed with depression; those with a history of one to two previous concussions (36.3 percent) were 1.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with depression. 

The study was conducted through the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Bailes is the organization’s medical director.

It is estimated that roughly 85 percent of concussions go undiagnosed, and actual number of sports- and recreation-related concussion nationwide is nearly seven times the 300,000 that are officially diagnosed.  ACSM has issued recommendations to help team physicians properly evaluate, diagnose and treat concussions.

The risk of concussion is most common and prevalent in impact-sports that require the use of helmets.  These include, but are not limited to, football, ice and field hockey, soccer, lacrosse, softball and wrestling.

- WVU -

For more information:
Steve Bovino, HSC News Service, (304) 293-7087

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