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Retired NFL players are looking to the scientific community for answers to treat depression. The organization’s alumni association has asked thousands of former professional players to volunteer for a clinical study that involves a new drug.

While still in its early stages, NSI-189, researchers say, is different than antidepressants already on the market. Maryland-based Neuralstem, the creator of the new drug, claims it can repair damage in parts of the brain that have been neglected by depression, even the atrophied portions. NSI is also believed to reverse depression symptoms and retain cognitive abilities that were previously lost.

For years, society has questioned the toll heavy hitting plays on professional football players. The outcome has varied over the years.

Neuralstem’s president, Richard Garr, said the retired players will be participating in the trial’s second phase.

Garr said that while a majority of antidepressants deal with chemicals in the brain, NSI-189 will work to reverse the damage done by years of trauma and injury.

Until recently, most retired players have battled with depression alone and some have committed suicide. The interesting thing is that they do so by avoiding damage to the head. This act has allowed their families to donate their brains for research.

The studies involving NSI-189 could provide additional opportunities for researchers to look into athletes before it’s too late.

Former Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Lee Nystrom said the testing isn’t about placing blame. Nystrom, who used to lead the NFL Alumni Assn., had grown frustrated by players continually blaming the NFL for a lack of sympathy or inaction. He hopes the new drug can not only help professional football players, but anyone else suffering with depression.

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