Amanda Rabinowitz, PhD, director of MRRI’s Brain Injury Neuropsychology Lab, along with John Whyte, PhD, MD, and collaborators at University of Pennsylvania and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, contributed to a recently published study looking at the long-term effects of participation in high school football.
The study appeared in the journal JAMA Neurology. It was based on data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS), which has followed a random sample of Wisconsin class of 1957 high school graduates.
In a recent column in Scientific American, the study’s authors describe their results:
“We were surprised to find that playing high school football did not have a statistically significant harmful effect on later-life cognition and mental health in this sample. Moreover, it did not have an effect on anxiety, anger, hostility, or alcohol abuse later in life.”
The authors were quick to note that football has changed dramatically since the 1950s, which may contribute to the results. Over the years, football has become a more physical game, played by bigger and faster athletes.
They caution that football remains a risky sport.
“Though there is still no definitive study on the risks of playing football, there are several common-sense guidelines that can be followed today, like implementing measures that decrease the likelihood of concussions,” they write.
Dr. Rabinowitz’s research focuses on the neurobiological and psychosocial factors that influence recovery from concussion and traumatic brain injury. She is particularly interested in uncovering the underlying causes of persistent disability and dysfunction, which affect individuals across the spectrum of brain injury severity, even a proportion of those with so-called “mild” injuries.
Dr. Whyte is director of the Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute.