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NFL NOTEBOOK

New study links concussions, depression

A study of more than 2,500 retired NFL players found that those who had at least three concussions during their careers had triple the risk of clinical depression as those who had no concussions.

Those who recalled one or two concussions were 1 1/2 times more likely to be diagnosed with depression, said Kevin Guskiewicz of the University of North Carolina's Center for the Study of Retired Athletes.

"The findings of this study are not simply relevant to 50-, 55-year-old, 60-year-old retired athletes," but to those currently playing, said Guskiewicz, lead author of the study published yesterday in "Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise," the journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.

Concussions among NFL players have made news in recent months. A forensic pathologist who studied Andre Waters's brain after he killed himself in November said it had been damaged by concussions.

In addition, The Boston Globe and The New York Times reported in February that Ted Johnson, a Patriots linebacker for 10 years, shows early signs of Alzheimer's disease.

Johnson, 34, said his mental problems began in 2002, when he had two concussions in four days: the first during an exhibition game and the second after he felt he was pushed into joining a full-contact practice.

Alcohol ban announced
NFL clubs may no longer serve alcohol at team functions or on buses or flights, extending a ban that until now applied only in locker rooms.

NFL owners and executives were told by commissioner Roger Goodell that the rule pertains not only to players but to owners, coaches, and guests.

"I believe that no constructive purpose is served by clubs continuing to make alcoholic beverages available, and that doing so imposes significant and unnecessary risks to the league, its players, and others," Goodell wrote.

Vick's woes continue
Informants have come forward saying they can link Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick to dogfighting, the prosecutor in the case said yesterday, and he has turned their accounts and contact information over to investigators. Surry (Va.) County Attorney Gerald G. Poindexter said he has heard from about a half-dozen people claiming to have information about Vick's involvement in dogfighting, but he does not know if their claims have proven to be reliable. In addition, AirTran Airways has ended its relationship with Vick, who has been a pitchman for the airline since 2004. "Michael's contract expired May 8, and we advised him then that we would not renew it," AirTran spokesman Tad Hutcheson said. Vick, meanwhile, showed up for offseason workouts in Flowery Branch, Ga., with a new haircut he hopes is the start of a new image. Vick, who has worn his long hair in braids since proclaiming in 2004 he wouldn't get a haircut until he won the Super Bowl, has a new, short cut. Vick wasn't talking, but team spokesman Reggie Roberts said the decision was part of Vick's resolve for a clean start in 2007 . . . Philadelphia Eagles tight end L.J. Smith had surgery for a torn muscle in his groin Wednesday and will miss the team's final minicamp next week. Smith's status for training camp is uncertain. Veterans are scheduled to report July 30. A similar injury ended quarterback Donovan McNabb's season after nine games in 2005 . . . Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line coach Larry Zierlein apologized for accidentally e-mailing an explicit sex video to numerous NFL employees, including Goodell.

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