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Neurofeedback helps brain-injured NFL players and others

Posted on 05-06-2016 Posted in Mental Health, Recovery, Treatment - 0 Comments

Actor Will Smith powerfully brought to life the condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in the recent film entitled “Concussion.” CTE has been described as a progressive neurological deterioration that results from repetitive brain trauma, such as that which professional football players often experience. Symptoms of CTE can be devastating and include mood swings, behavior changes, cognitive impairment and memory loss.

Help for former NFL players

Over 100 former National Football League (NFL) players with CTE are being enrolled in a program using neurofeedback. Neurofeedback, also called electroencephalographic (EEG) biofeedback, is a noninvasive procedure that uses brain wave sensors and computer software programs to allow the brain to self-regulate through operant learning. The procedure is painless and usually consists of a series of short sessions (typically less than one hour each).

The former football players will undergo up to 24 neurofeedback sessions two or three times a week. Neurocognitive testing will be done before treatment, halfway through and after the 24 sessions. Follow-up assessments will be done six and 12 months after treatment completion.

The services are being provided as part of a larger study planned after nine such athletes demonstrated significant improvement after having the treatment. George Rozelle, Ph.D., the principal investigator for the pilot study, said in a recent press release that “improvements are holding” one year after treatment in those who have been re-evaluated to date.

Others benefit, too

These former NFL players will not be the first to benefit from neurofeedback testing. Scientific evidence has demonstrated clinical promise for many conditions and populations. Evidence of neurofeedback’s effectiveness has previously been demonstrated in patients with traumatic brain injury, as well as for those with reading disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, eating disorders, PTSD and substance use disorders. It has been shown to be safe and effective for use with adults, elders, and children and adolescents. NASA even uses neurofeedback to improve the concentration of astronauts-in-training.

By recognizing that some NFL players do experience CTE, those who are experiencing symptoms can now receive treatment, such as neurofeedback. Recognizing that a problem exists is an important first step toward solving that problem. When someone is struggling with behavioral symptoms or substance use, treatment can help. New breakthroughs are now available at specialized centers that can truly make a difference.

Sovereign Health of Florida treats individuals with mental health disorders, substance use and dual diagnosis. We use highly specialized neuropsychiatric assessment and treatment to provide the support needed to help our patients fully recover. We also provide continuing support and aftercare with online access to educational resources, health information and other opportunities. To learn more about our specialized programs at Sovereign Health of Florida, please call our 24/7 helpline.

About the author

Dana Connolly, Ph.D., is a senior staff writer for the Sovereign Health Group, where she translates current research into practical information. She earned her Ph.D. in research and theory development from New York University and has decades of experience in clinical care, medical research and health education. The Sovereign Health Group is a health information resource and Dr. Connolly helps to ensure excellence in our model. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at

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