Raising Dementia Awareness Among NFL Alumni

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by Ray Burow |

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Football season has come to an end in the U.S., and for some of us, that’s good news. For others, not so much.

I have a love-hate relationship with the game, and I have very little interest in it when my team isn’t on the field. By some folks’ estimation (my son’s), that indicates that I’m not much of a football fan. I can live with that.

However, the NFL Alumni Association is involved in a project that excites me enough to reach fanatical status. It involves a brave fight against Alzheimer’s disease, so rah, rah!

A promising partnership

Last August, the association announced that it’s partnering with the Alzheimer’s Association to promote awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. According to a press release, the partnership will “deliver education programs and materials to more than 9,000 NFL Alumni members and the public.”

The partnership will continue for at least two years, which is a big step in the right direction considering nearly 5,000 former players sued the NFL a decade ago for allegedly concealing information that linked football injuries to brain damage.

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As part of the lawsuit, researchers investigated the possible connection between football-related head trauma and brain diseases like dementia.

According to a 2014 report by the Analysis Research and Planning Corporation, about 14% of all former NFL players will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and another 14% will develop moderate dementia. Compared with the general public, professional football players are twice as likely to develop early-onset Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, or dementia.

The NFL’s final agreement in the settlement allowed for up to $1 billion to be paid out to retired players who now suffer from medical conditions related to head injuries.

Much controversy surrounded the settlement. Some claimed that it wasn’t nearly enough to meet the extensive needs of former players with health issues, especially given the amount of money the NFL garners each year. Additionally, the settlement ended the investigation into the NFL’s conduct regarding on-field injuries that could lead to Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias.

Better days ahead?

There are still controversies surrounding football injury-related dementias, such as alleged inequities in the compensation that retired African American players receive as part of the concussion settlement. However, the partnership between the Alzheimer’s Association and the NFL Alumni Association seems to indicate progress.

Longtime gridiron fans will also notice that the NFL continues to implement health and safety rules changes. Many of these changes aim to protect players against devastating head injuries, which will hopefully change the outcome for young players who have an entire career ahead of them.


Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.

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