ISSN 1849-9031 (Online)

ISSN 1849-8922    (Print)

Growth hormone deficiency and central hypogonadism in retired professional football players.
Gábor László Kovács, Piroska Turbucz, Éva Rimanóczy, Gergely Pánics, Katalin Bánáti, Miklós Góth.


Purpose: The aim of this cross-sectional study was to evaluate the possible impact of multiple mild head traumas sustained during a long-term football career on the presence of central hypogonadism and growth hormone (GH) deficiency.

Methods: Twenty-seven retired, former professional male football players were investigated. All subjects were assessed for serum levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), luteinizing hormone (LH) and total testosterone (TT). Quality of life was quantified using the Assessment of Growth Hormone Deficiency in Adults (QoL-AGHDA) questionnaire.

Results: Subjects had a median age of 48.0 (42.0 – 53.0) years and a median football career of 29.0 years (22.0 – 32.0). One subject had central hypogonadism and none had growth hormone deficiency. Nine subjects reported sport-related head injuries. We found a negative correlation between sport-related head injuries and serum LH (p = -0.459, P = 0.016). Subjects with a history of sport-related head injury had a median LH of 3.3 U/L (2.7 – 3.6), while those without a history of sport-related head injury had a median LH of 4.1 (U/L) (3.6 – 5.7), P = 0.017. However, there were no differences in other hormones between the two groups. Moreover, we did not find any correlation between the duration of the player’s career nor their field position with hormone profiles or QoL-AGHDA.

Conclusion: Although retired footfall players with a history of sport-related head injury had lower LH levels, we did not find strong evidence of an increased prevalence of central hypogonadism or GH deficiency in these patients. Our results suggest that a long-term football career, which includes headings and repetitive mild head traumas, does not damage the most vulnerable anterior pituitary cells.