Cleveland Clinic partners with NFL Players Association to treat retired players with head trauma

CLEVELAND - The Cleveland Clinic is partnering with the National Football League Players Association to improve the brain health and general wellness of retired football players.

The Trust will provide physical and neurological evaluations to former players, the Cleveland Clinic said. It will then follow with a plan to treat symptoms, restore function, improve cognitive skills and slow nerve degeneration for head trauma sufferers.

"Athletic injuries and sports-related brain trauma have become part of the public consciousness and are being viewed as legitimate public health problems," said Jay Alberts, Ph.D., director of the Cleveland Clinic Concussion Center, in the written news release. "Former professional football players, in particular, are at increased risk for neurological disease. The goal of this program is to identify potential problems – physical, neurological or cognitive – earlier, which may lead to earlier interventions and treatments."

Services will be available to players at three locations: the main campus in Cleveland; the Cleveland Clinic Florida in Weston, Fla.; and the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas. Players can also receive evaluations and treatment at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C. or Tulane University in New Orleans.

"The cumulative effect of repeated collisions and brain trauma are now recognized as major factors in declining health – both mental and physical – among retired athletes who participated in contact sports," said Charles Bernick, M.D., associate medical director at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, in the news release. "These injuries can have lifelong ramifications, manifesting as cognitive impairment, decreased motor functioning, incessant pain, and psychological/behavioral issues, such as irritability, impaired insight and impulse control, paranoia, violent outbursts, and even suicide. By taking a proactive approach, this program is helping retired players be assessed, diagnosed and treated before symptoms arise."

The evaluation will look at the player's injury history and symptoms, as well as a MRI and cognitive evaluations, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Other services available include psychological interviews, balance assessments, cardiovascular evaluations, prostate screenings, and nutrition and life skills consultations.

Former players will also keep in contact with the health care team to follow up on short- and long-term treatment plans.

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