Some doctors are asking if athletes should be genetically tested to see if they are at a greater risk for developing Alzheimer's disease or dementia.
Dr. Steven DeKosky is the dean of the University of Virginia School of Medicine. He says there is more evidence that suggests repeated head injuries can cause memory loss later in life, and genes could play a role in increasing the risk.
According to Dr. DeKosky, there are ethical concerns about telling people what their genetic makeup is because it doesn't necessarily confirm they will develop memory loss diseases.
"We have a difficult habit of thinking that if I have this particular variant of a gene that I'm going to get the disease and if I don't have it I'm not going to get the disease and they're not that predictive," Dr. DeKosky said.
An informal poll taken of experts in Alzheimer's disease and traumatic brain injury revealed 45% thought it was too early to introduce genetic testing in schools, and that more information is needed to discuss how the genetic testing would be useful.
There are more than five million Americans living with Alzheimer's disease. This year alone caring for those patients will cost an estimated $200 billion.
Dr. DeKosky said efforts need to be made to find a way to delay or stop the progression of the disease in hopes of reducing those costs.
"If we could delay the disease by five years, several decades down the line we would have 50% fewer cases," says Dr. DeKosky.
Jennifer Von Reuter joined the NBC29 news team in June 2009 as a general assignment reporter. Prior to joining NBC29, Jennifer worked as an anchor and reporter for WHAG-TV in Hagerstown, MD. Email/Follow on Twitter/ Full Story