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Players at greater risk for brain diseases, new study says

NEW YORK — A study of former NFL players finds they were unusually prone to dying from degenerative brain disease, the latest indication that repeated blows to the head might cause serious trouble later on.

The death rate from Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Lou Gehrig's disease combined was about three times what one would predict from the general population, researchers reported.

Prior research had suggested football players were unusually prone to those diseases, said lead researcher Everett Lehman of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which is part of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study, reported online Wednesday in the journal Neurology, looked at death certificates. It drew on a long-running study of more than 3,400 NFL players with at least five playing seasons in the league between 1959 and 1988. Some 334 had died by the end of 2007, the cutoff for being included in the study. Researchers compared their death rates from various causes to that of a comparable group of American men.

One or another of the three brain diseases was listed as the underlying cause of death in 10 cases, which is about three times the general rate for American men, the researchers reported.

Researchers noted that the study can't prove that the results were caused by football-related concussions, and that they might not apply to pro or amateur players who have played fewer than five years.

Also on Wednesday, the NFL announced a donation of $30 million for medical research to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, the fundraising arm of the NIH. Commissioner Roger Goodell said the research could benefit athletes and potential areas of study might include CTE, concussion management and treatment.

No Witten waiver: The Cowboys denied an ESPN.com report that claimed tight end Jason Witten was willing to sign a waiver that would free the team and its doctors from liability if he was allowed to play Wednesday against the Giants, USA Today reported. Witten, who suffered a tear to his spleen in the last preseason game, was not listed among the inactives and was cleared to play in the regular-season opener, where he caught two passes for 10 yards in the victory over the Giants.

Sanchez rattled, WR says: Quarterback Mark Sanchez was "rattled" and in a state of shock when he got word of the trade that brought Tim Tebow to the Jets, receiver Santonio Holmes told Newsday. Holmes said he spoke to Sanchez by phone and the quarterback's initial reaction was a mixture of shock, confusion and insecurity. " 'Wow. How did this happen?' " Holmes recalled Sanchez asking.

Fan forum: Before the season opener, Goodell met with fans representing each team, and they told him they want cheaper tickets for preseason games, to be online while at the game, and some want more cold-weather Super Bowls. Goodell said preseason ticket price is a big issue among fans, saying: "I hear that almost No. 1. I think it's probably fair to say people probably are not fans of the preseason."

A Tampa Bay fan won applause by asking why the league doesn't dump the "archaic" local blackout system for games that fail to sell out. Goodell noted blackouts are far less frequent than they used to be and that tickets sales are important to the clubs. The deadline for the Bucs to sell out their opener is 4:25 p.m. today, unless the team is granted an extension.

Bounty case: A federal judge in New Orleans has all but ruled out any prospects for a settlement in the case of four players challenging their bounty suspensions. U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan asked for more filings pertaining to the players' request for a temporary restraining order that would allow them to return to their teams while their case against the NFL proceeds.

Bears: Linebacker Brian Urlacher (left knee) practiced and was listed as a full participant in preparations for the Colts.

Redskins: Strong safety Brandon Meriweather will miss the season opener because of sprained ligaments in his left knee.

Players at greater risk for brain diseases, new study says 09/05/12 [Last modified: Thursday, September 6, 2012 12:30am]
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