Sports: Pro Perils

The death last week from heart failure of Pittsburgh Steelers' Hall of Fame center Mike Webster, 50, whose post-NFL life included a diagnosis of brain damage and periods of homelessness, raised familiar questions about the long-term health risks for pro-football players. Researchers at the University of North Carolina are studying 2,500 retired NFL players from the ages of 24 to 95. According to the study's Dr. Kevin Guskiewicz, the players have a greater incidence of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, especially the linemen; they also have a lot more arthritis. In mental health, the retired players show a greater incidence of clinical depression, particularly in the first few years after retirement. Guskiewicz also sees a link between depression and multiple concussions.