Tag Archives: NFL

What about football and the athlete’s brain?

Regular readers know that I have lost three family members to dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease, so I am totally interested in any new information on the subject. I am also a passionate fan of the National Football League.

The following is from the Alzheimer’s Prevention Bulletin.


Most fans will track first downs and touchdowns on Sept. 7, the opening game of the National Football League’s (NFL’s) 2017 season. If he tunes in, Robert Stern, PhD, no doubt will focus on any traumatic brain injuries (TBI) that occur during the game. These can range from mild TBI – as in a concussion – to severe TBI.

Dr. Stern also will watch for those more common head impacts that do not result in symptoms of concussion or draw the attention of the television cameras.  Called “subconcussive” trauma, those hits are associated with a brain disease that is the focus of Dr. Stern’s research.

Dr. Stern is the Director of Clinical Research for the Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) Center and Director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Center Clinical Core, both at Boston University.

“Alzheimer’s disease is my primary focus professionally,” Dr. Stern said. “But some years ago, I started to learn more about another neurodegenerative disease called CTE. I soon realized that CTE had the potential to become a major public health issue. That’s when CTE research became a passion.”

CTE is a progressive, degenerative brain disease, similar to Alzheimer’s disease, found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma. That brain trauma could include concussions as well as those subconcussive hits to the head that do not have symptoms. The trauma can trigger a series of events in the brain that progressively destroy its tissue, resulting in CTE. The symptoms that accompany CTE are similar to Alzheimer’s disease: changes in memory and cognition as well as changes in mood and behavior. Eventually, it can lead to dementia.

TBI, CTE & Alzheimer’s: Are they Connected? 

Is there a connection between TBI, CTE and Alzheimer’s?

“I used to refer to TBI as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, because early research suggested that,” said Dr. Stern. “However, more recent research suggests that the relationship between the two is not very clear.”

That means people who experience TBI at any age – a hit on the football field as a youth or a fall on the stairs as an older adult – do not appear to increase their chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Concussion Controversies in Sports

Now let’s head back to the football field.

A 2016 Harris Poll showed pro football is continuing its reign as America’s favorite sport. Its popularity persists in spite of concern about the sport’s long-term impact on players’ brain health that began in the early 2000s. At that time, autopsies of deceased American football players revealed evidence of CTE. Years later, research from the BU center published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 110 out of 111 deceased former NFL players had CTE.

Dr. Stern estimates that in some contact sports like football, there can be 1,000 or more subconcussive hits per season of play. And these impacts can leave their mark on an athlete and eventually lead to CTE.

“There’s research that indicates even after one season of youth football, children ages 8-10 years old,  had structural changes to their brains that were directly associated with the number of hits to the head they received,” Dr. Stern said. “Research from my team at BU has shown a dose-response relationship between the total estimated number of those repetitive head impacts a football player receives through youth, high school, and college football, and later life cognitive impairments and problems with depression and behavior. We have to take these repetitive head impacts seriously.”

And thanks to Dr. Stern, that message is getting out.

Want to learn more about head injury and CTE? Join Dr. Robert A. Stern, PhD, Clinical Core Director of the BU Alzheimer’s Disease Center online as he discusses the role of head injury in developing dementia later in life. 

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Filed under aging brain, Alzheimer's, Alzheimer's disease, Alzheimer's risk, brain damage, brain function, brain health, dementia, football

How to Have a Healthy Super Bowl Sunday

I love to watch football. I am plugged into the NFL from the summer preseason games through the Super Bowl and I follow off the field NFL developments all year. So, today is a real culmination for me.


I was surprised to learn that in terms of total amount of food consumed, Super Bowl Sunday is second only to Thanksgiving. Wow! I have seen some estimates of the tons of pizzas and beers that will be consumer eaten and drunk today. Staggering. Papa John’s and Domino’s must love it.

So, it seems like the Super Bowl presents a potential roadblock to someone working on weight control.

Here is how my day looks: I just came back from a 15 mile bike ride. You may have heard that Chicago is flirting with blizzard conditions today. That is true but I ride on the lower level of Wacker Drive which is covered. You may not have heard of lower Wacker, but you have likely seen it. Christian Bale wheeled his Bat mobile all over it in the Batman movie.

So, I feel that I have paid for some of the extra snacking I will be doing come game time.

A lot of folks go to Super Bowl parties to enjoy the game. My girlfriend and I are planning a two-person party complete with all the goodies.

Since there is so much snacking over the course of the afternoon, the game starts at 5:30 PM, Chicago time, we thought we would start watching and snacking at 5:00 PM.

Here are some of our Super goodies.

Here are some of our Super goodies.

We plan to simply snack through the afternoon and game and forgo any kind of dinner. This frees up around 400 calories for the festivities.

Interestingly, our choices mostly came from our neighborhood Costco. We will have Sabra hummus and pita bread which is delicious and a very healthy item. There will also be toasted seaweed  and Edamame (a soybean snack). The Energy Blend Snack, a mixture of cranberries, nuts, soybeans, etc. Only the nice dish of tamari roasted pepitas will be from Whole Foods.

She is bringing some fancy hors d’oeuvres in addition to nachos and halfway healthy chips for dipping.

Finally, I will make stovetop popcorn with coconut oil which is as nutritious as it is delicious. If you aren’t familiar with the numerous benefits of coconut oil check out my Page Why You Should Include Coconut oil in Your Diet

I fell for the Bud Light Lime ads back when they first introduced it, so I will be drinking Bud Light Lime beer. My girlfriend who is infinitely classier than I, will have wine.

You will notice that I haven’t spent a lot of time with calorie counts. I think this is definitely a celebration day and if you go over some on your calorie, you go over and that’s okay. I don’t want to spoil the fun. I know you can eat healthy and still have a good time.


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Super Bowl Prompts NFL on Brain Study Release

I am a big football fan so I get news items from the NFL regularly. This morning I got one from Jeffrey Immelt and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell explaining all the NFL is doing to protect its players against the danger of concussions.

450px-thumbnailI was fascinated to read the following, “Those concerns include the risk of concussion, which is difficult to diagnose, treat, and prevent. That’s in large part because there continue to be great holes in the scientific and medical understanding of the brain.” My emphasis.

I started reading about the brain as I studied weight loss and calorie consumption. I bet you have no idea what percent of your daily calorie intake goes to power the brain which accounts for less than 3 percent of your body weight. (Hint: You can find the answer along with a ton of other fascinating facts on my Page Important facts about your brain – and exercise.)

The NFL said, “We are making a tangible commitment toward accelerating progress in our knowledge of the brain – how it works, how it can be better protected, and how we can help it to recover from injury.”

Last year the NFL partnered with Under Armour announcing a $60 million dollar “Head Health Initiative” aimed at jump-starting new research and tech into the brain. This week they announced the first winners.

This is great news. I think this infusion of money will result in some breakthroughs in the field of brain injury study as well as general knowledge about the brain that will benefit all of us not just the guys knocking each other’s heads in on the field. Kudos to the NFL for this initiative. I look forward to the news we get over the next few years on this most important organ in the body.


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