Skip to main content

By Mass General Brigham
May 5, 2023

Case report: Former Football Player’s Cognitive Symptoms Improved after Study Revealed Alternative Diagnosis and Treatment

Football athletes with recurring head injuries and concussions face an increased susceptibility to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a non-reversible ailment that results in dementia. However, a recent study published in Current Sports Medicine Reports by Mass General Brigham’s researchers shows that not all instances of cognitive decline indicate CTE.

Adam Tenforde, MD, a physician at Mass General Brigham’s Sports Medicine program and the medical director of the Spaulding National Running Center, co-wrote a report that narrated the story of a 54-year-old retired professional football player. The player was suffering from cognitive, behavioral, and personality changes that significantly impacted his life when he joined the Harvard Football Players Health Study. During the study’s three-day evaluation, the participant underwent a comprehensive health assessment, including a brain MRI. The MRI revealed signs of hydrocephalus, which is brain swelling that can be treated and reversed. The participant received treatment and experienced improvements in cognition and mood.

“Dr. Tenforde highlights the significance of being curious about the reasons behind a person’s functional changes,” as stated in his comment. He added that there might be subconscious biases in how healthcare providers approach current and former athletes, which can impact their treatment. Providers may presume that a decline in cognition points to an untreatable diagnosis or condition. However, the ongoing study’s key findings demonstrate that adopting a more comprehensive approach can lead to alternative explanations and a diagnosis that is treatable.”

Study News
Media Coverage