Brain health study of former university, professional hockey players gets financial support
By The Canadian PressNews
March 7, 2014 — A study tracking the brain health of retired NHL players over several years has received $750,000 in additional funding to expand recruitment to university hockey alumni.
Thirty retired NHL players are currently enrolled in the study started in 2011 by researchers at Baycrest Health Sciences in Toronto.
The new funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research will
allow former university hockey players up to age 90 to join the study.
investigator Brian Levine says the new funding will allow researchers
to generalize their findings from a sample of hockey players more
representative of the general population.
The former NHL players
are undergoing comprehensive cognitive testing, brain scans and other
tests aimed at identifying risk factors associated with dementia.
They will also have the option of donating their brains after death to determine if any neurodegenerative disease had occurred.
study is unique because it focuses on aging hockey players, looking at
numerous factors that can potentially affect brain health over time,
said Levine, a senior scientist with Baycrest's Rotman Research
Institute and an expert in head trauma and dementia.
"This is one
of the most comprehensive studies out there," he said Thursday in a
statement. "In addition to concussion history, we are looking at
lifestyle factors, chronic illnesses, and genetics and proteins related
to dementia, which can all impact cognitive health in aging."
and his colleagues are testing individuals with and without a history
of concussion, and those with and without age-related cognitive and
behavioural changes. Comparing these different groups of volunteers is
crucial to isolating important factors in neurodegenerative disease.
former super-fit athletes from a high-impact sport, we are very
interested in contributing to research that will help illuminate the
different factors that influence the aging process, particularly around
brain health and dementia," said Mark Napier, executive director of the
NHL Alumni Association.
"We hope that the findings will have wider implications for all aging adults."
study has also enrolled age- and education-matched family members and
friends of the retired NHL players to form a comparison group that is
undergoing the same assessment.
The comparison group will help
researchers tease apart the brain health factors that may be specific to
retired hockey players as opposed to those that are present in the
general population. Follow-up testing will take place every four years.
hockey alumni who are interested in enrolling in the study should
contact Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute recruitment hotline,
416-785-2500, ext. 3100. Eligible participants may still be active in
recreational sports; however, those who are still actively competing as a
professional, semi-professional or university hockey player will not
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