A team of investigators at Johns Hopkins has put nine former NFL football players through a battery of high-tech tests, including PET scans and MRIs of the brain.
The men, between 57 and 74 years old, also underwent tests of verbal learning and memory. Nine age-matched controls were put through the same tests.
The scientists were especially focused on a marker called translocator protein, a signal of brain damage. The overall findings indicate molecular and structural changes in the brains of the pro football players. These indicate lasting brain damage, possibly or probably as a consequence of hitting their heads so frequently.
The researchers plan to look at the brains of active and recently retired players to see if the changes occur right away or if they are a delayed response to injury. A better understanding of the consequences of concussion might lead to changes in the way contact sports are played.