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Health Highlights: Sept. 18, 2015

96 Percent of NFL Players Who Donated Brains Had Head Trauma Disease: Report Could Need for Long Naps Signal Type 2 Diabetes? Obama Nominates New FDA Commissioner

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

96 Percent of NFL Players Who Donated Brains Had Head Trauma Disease: Report

The latest data from a brain bank that focuses on traumatic head injury shows that 87 of 91 deceased former National Football League players tested positive for a brain disease associated with repetitive head injuries.

The degenerative disease, known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), was identified in 96 percent of NFL players and in 79 percent of all football players studied, researchers from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University told Frontline in an exclusive report Friday.

CTE can cause memory loss, depression and dementia. In total, brain tissue from 165 people who played football in high school, college, semi-pro leagues or in the NFL was examined after their deaths, according to Frontline.

Offensive and defensive linemen bore the brunt of the disease, with 40 percent of players at those positions suffering from CTE, according to the brain bank.

Past research has shown that constant minor head traumas may pose the greatest neurological danger, rather than the less common violent collisions that cause concussions, Frontline reported.

But since CTE can only be diagnosed posthumously, many of the players who had donated their brains for testing suspected that they had the disease while still alive, so researchers were working with a skewed sample, Frontline reported.

The NFL said in a statement to Frontline, "We are dedicated to making football safer and continue to take steps to protect players, including rule changes, advanced sideline technology and expanded medical resources. We continue to make significant investments in independent research through our gifts to Boston University, the [National Institutes of Health] and other efforts to accelerate the science and understanding of these issues."

In April, the NFL agreed to a $1 billion concussion settlement with former players. But, appeals filed in August by some former players who oppose the terms of the settlement will likely delay payments to thousands of other retired players until next year.


Could Need for Long Naps Signal Type 2 Diabetes?

The need for a long daytime nap or being tired throughout the day may be linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, new research suggests.

A review of more than 260,000 people found that those who were very sleepy during the day had a 56 percent higher risk of diabetes compared to those who weren't tired. People who took long naps -- 60 minutes or more -- had a 46 percent higher risk of diabetes, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

These findings don't show a cause-and-effect relationship between napping and type 2 diabetes. It's also possible that the need for a nap and excess daytime fatigue are warning signs of type 2 diabetes. One of the study's authors, Dr. Tomohide Yamada, a researcher at the University of Tokyo, said people who need to take long naps or who are very tired during the day should see their doctor.

The study was scheduled to be presented Friday at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes conference in Stockholm, Sweden.


Obama Nominates New FDA Commissioner

Dr. Robert Califf, a well-known cardiologist and researcher from Duke University, has been nominated by President Barack Obama to be the new head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The Tuesday announcement did not come as a complete surprise, as Califf joined the agency earlier this year as a deputy commissioner under acting commissioner Stephen Ostroff, the Washington Post reported. Ostroff, who had been the FDA's chief scientist, temporarily took over the reins of the agency after former FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg resigned last spring, the newspaper said.

While at Duke University, Califf led scores of pivotal clinical trials and served on various FDA advisory committees, the Post reported.

Should the U.S. Senate confirm Califf as the new FDA commissioner, he will take over an agency that is tackling new responsibilities and significant changes.

During Hamburg's tenure, legislation was passed to overhaul the U.S. food safety system and to let the FDA begin regulating tobacco products for the first time. A raft of new drugs were also approved during her six-year tenure, the newspaper reported.

In addition to implementing the extensive food safety legislation passed by Congress in late 2010, the agency is still grappling with how to regulate cigarettes and other tobacco-related products, including cigars and e-cigarettes, the newspaper reported.

Last but not least, new legislation that could accelerate the drug and medical device approval process is winding its way through Congress. Some experts are concerned that the bill could push the FDA to place speed over safety and effectiveness, the Post said.

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