Study: Repeated Head Injuries Can Lead To Hormonal Dysfunction, Decreased Quality Of Life

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Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker (83) after getting a concussion on a hard hit.  (credit: Aaron Ontiveroz/Getty Images)

Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker (83) after getting a concussion on a hard hit. (credit: Aaron Ontiveroz/Getty Images)

CHAPEL HILL, NC (CBS Charlotte) – According to a recent study, repeated head injuries among professional football players can lead to hormonal dysfunction and decreased quality of life.

Researchers examined 68 retired NFL players. They found that 16 of them had pituitary hormonal deficiency. Thirty-four of them also showed evidence of metabolic syndrome, which can include high blood pressure and high cholesterol and also associated with low testosterone.

“This is really about quality of life and functioning at an optimal level,” Dr. Daniel Kelly, director of the Brain Tumor Center at Saint John’s Health Center and the John Wayne Cancer Institute as well as the study’s co-author told the L.A. Times. “If they pituitary gland isn’t working well, they don’t feel well. They don’t think well. It has a real effect on the quality of life.”

The players examined ranged between 30 and 65 years of age and had a median of five seasons played; in which 37 of them had suffered concussions during their career.

“My feeling is the qualification and categorization of concussions is so poor that I think we don’t define concussions very well,” Kelly added to the newspaper. “This may be the accumulation of many subconcussive impacts every day in practice that these guys have been having every day since high school football.”

No correlation was determined between the number of concussions and hormonal dysfunction; however the 16 players that did have hormonal dysfunction had a higher ratio of concussions to games played then the other players.

“This needs to be studied on a much larger level,” Kelly said of hormonal dysfunction. “I think it’s a much more common problem than people realize. I think most of the athletes don’t have any idea about this.”

Kelly worked on the study with Dr. Kevin Guskiewicz, a University of North Carolina professor who is a member of the NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Committee. The NFL had no involvement on this study. The study was funded by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment.

The study was published in the Journal of Neurotrauma.

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