(HealthDay News) – Retired National Football League (NFL) athletes with depression have impaired white matter integrity detected by diffusion tensor imaging; and among retired NFL athletes, a history of concussion correlates with depression, according to two studies released in advance of their presentation at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, which will be held from March 16–23 in San Diego.

Kyle Womack, MD, of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, and colleagues examined the correlation between impaired white matter integrity, defined by reduced fractional anisotropy (FA) on diffusion tensor imaging, and depression, measured using the Beck Depression Inventory II (BDI-II), in a cohort of 26 retired NFL athletes (five of whom were depressed; mean score on BDI-II, 23.8). The researchers observed a significant negative correlation between the mean FA from four tract regions of interest (forceps minor, right frontal aslant tract, right uncinate fasciculus, and left superior longitudinal fasciculus) and BDI scores. The mean FA of the forceps minor accurately differentiated depressed from non-depressed athletes (sensitivity, 100%; specificity, 95%).

Nyaz Didehbani, PhD, of the University of Texas at Dallas, and colleagues assessed depressive symptoms in 34 retired NFL athletes with a history of concussion and 29 age- and IQ-matched controls without a history of concussion. The researchers noted a significant correlation between the number of lifetime concussions and the BDI-II scores. The cognitive factor of a three-factor model of depressive symptoms of the BDI-II was significantly correlated with concussions.

“It is important when a concussive experience occurs that medical professionals appropriately include depression screening in their follow-up assessment,” Didehbani said in a statement.

Abstract – Womack
Abstract – Didehbani
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