Daniel Amen, Newport Beach Brain Doctor, Says NFL Must Get Its Heads Examined
Pro football players of the past like Conrad Dobler, Hacksaw Reynolds and Hollywood Henderson were known for being crazy on and off the field. Now, a Newport Beach brain doctor says football players suffer a high risk of going nuts after their playing days are over.
"Playing football frequently causes brain damage," according to Dr. Daniel Amen, the founder of Amen Clinics, Inc. that currently has four locations around the country and plans to open three more in 2012. Amen, who is also CEO and medical director of the clinics, began studying the effects of football on brain health in 2007 at the request of the Retired NFL Players Association.
"Our study found significant evidence that football is one of the worst sports for the health of your brain," he says in a statement his Newport Beach office sent out today.
If you began playing football in high school, the doctor says, you have a higher risk of suffering health problems involving the brain later in life. Among the ailments that may be linked to football is chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive degenerative disease associated with repeated brain trauma. Symptoms, which may occur early or years after a brain injury, include dementia, memory loss, aggression and depression. Amen has also found violent behavior, obesity, mental illness, and suicide statistically common in populations of former players.
"Fortunately, there are treatment protocols that can literally reverse many of the symptoms and improve brain function," says Amen.
But his research involving 115 active and retired players led to this conclusion: the NFL needs much stricter helmet rules, heavier penalties for hard hits to heads and safer helmet technology to protect current and future players.
"The helmets are not good enough, but that's just the start of what needs to happen," Amen says. "The NFL, team owners, athletes of all ages, parents, school officials and fans need to know the severe affects of getting hit in the head over and over again."
His work with NFL players, active and retired, appeared in The Journal of Psychoactive Drugs in March under the headline, "Reversing Brain Damage in Former NFL Players: Implications for Traumatic Brain Injury and Substance Abuse Rehabilitation."
A month later, perhaps as a result of brain injuries I suffered riding the pine for my high school and college football teams, I mistakenly posted an item on Terry Bradshaw visiting Amen's Newport Beach clinic eight days after Weekly strong safety R. Scott Moxley reported the exact same thing. Did somebody say memory loss?
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