Parkinson’s Risk and Playing Football

Repetitive head impacts from tackle football can have long-term neurological consequences like chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). But research on the association between participation in tackle football and PD is limited.

In the largest study to describe the association between participation in football and the odds for having a reported diagnosis of PD, researchers from the BU CTE Center used a large online data set of people concerned for having PD and found participants with a history of playing organized tackle football had a 61% increased odds of having a reported parkinsonism or PD diagnosis.

In this study, the researchers evaluated 1,875 sport participants — 729 men who played football, predominantly at the amateur level, and 1,146 men who played non-football sports who served as the control group. 

Notably, researchers found a link between playing football and increased odds for having a parkinsonism or PD diagnosis even after accounting for known risk factors for PD. 

Additionally, the data revealed that players who had longer careers and played at higher levels of competition experienced increased odds for having a reported diagnosis of parkinsonism or PD. 

Football players who played at the college or professional level were at 2.93 increased odds for having a PD diagnosis compared with those who just played at the youth or high school level. 

Age of first exposure to football was not associated with odds for having a reported parkinsonism or PD diagnosis.

The researchers acknowledge several limitations to their findings and caution that the work is still preliminary. 


Hannah J. Bruce, Yorghos Tripodis, Michael McClean, Monica Korell, Caroline M. Tanner, Brittany Contreras, Joshua Gottesman, Leslie Kirsch, Yasir Karim, Brett Martin, Joseph Palmisano, Bobak Abdolmohammadi, Ludy C. Shih, Thor D. Stein, Robert A. Stern, Charles H. Adler, Jesse Mez, Chris Nowinski, Ann C. McKee, Michael L. Alosco. American Football Play and Parkinson Disease Among Men. JAMA Network Open, 2023; 6 (8): e2328644 DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.28644

Boston University School of Medicine. (2023, August 11). Playing tackle football may increase the risk for Parkinson’s disease: New study shows risk increases with more years of play, even in high school and college players. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 11, 2023 from

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