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A history of multiple concussion shows worse cognitive function only in older (75+ years) retired male elite rugby union players

20 October 2021
Dr Valentina Gallo, from the University of Groningen/Campus Fryslân

Retired male elite rugby union players aged 75+ who suffered multiple rugby-related concussions during their career have a worse average cognitive function than those who had experienced no, one or two concussions, according to a new study in Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association. But, the study also reveals that there is no overall link between concussion, length of career and cognitive function in retired male elite rugby union players aged 50+.

Although no worsening of cognitive function was seen in the group overall and in the under 75s, the study found that 29% of over 75 years who had suffered three or more rugby-related concussions during their career did have significantly worse cognitive function and may be at greater risk of more problems, such as memory loss, in the future than those who had experienced no or less concussions.

Dr Valentina Gallo, from the University of Groningen/Campus Fryslân (formerly at Queen Mary University of London), one of the Principal Investigators of the BRAIN study, and study first author, said: “Our findings are in line with those of previous studies, and perhaps highlight that the high cognitive reserve in this study group may have masked the initial phases of any cognitive problems they experience. We’ll be following up on this group of players to shed further light on our findings.”

The BRAIN study – funded by The Drake Foundation – worked with nearly 150 retired elite players now aged 50+ who played for either England, Oxford University or Cambridge University in the pre-professional era.

Last modified:20 October 2021 10.45 a.m.
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