The biggest ever study into football brain injuries has diagnosed CTE in 99 percent of former NFL players’ brains in post-mortem examinations.
Boston University is leading the groundbreaking and ambitious research project to identify whether there is a direct link between concussions on the field and neurodegenerative diseases in players – including the late Aaron Hernandez.
They are focusing on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a little-understood condition a progressive neurodegeneration associated with repetitive head trauma. It has been linked to ALS (also called ‘locked-in syndrome’) and Alzheimer’s.
Now, the team has released their first major findings from post-mortem examinations on 202 deceased players’ brains, which were donated to research.
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They also interviewed next-of-kin to learn about each player’s clinical symptoms, to compare with their findings.
The players, who lived to an average of 66 years old, had all played for a median of 15 years – from high school to professional leagues.
Overall, 177 of the brains they analyzed (87 percent) had CTE.
It was by far the most prevalent among NFL players: they found 110 of the 111 NFL players in the study (99 percent) had the hallmarks of CTE.
College players had the second-highest rate, with 48 out of 53 college players’ brains (91 percent) diagnosed with CTE.
They also diagnosed CTE in seven out of eight Canadian Football League players (88 percent), nine out of 14 semi-professional players (64 percent), and three out of 14 high school players (21 percent).
All three of the high school players had mild CTE.
The majority of all the other players had severe pathology.
Among those with mild CTE pathology, 96 percent had behavioral and mood symptoms, 85 percent had cognitive symptoms, and 33 percent had signs of dementia.
Among those with severe CTE pathology, 89 percent had behavioral or mood symptoms or both, 95 percent had cognitive symptoms, and 85 percent had signs of dementia.
‘In a convenience sample of deceased football players who donated their brains for research, a high proportion had neuropathological evidence of CTE, suggesting that CTE may be related to prior participation in football,’ the article concludes.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative brain disease that is caused by repeated hits to the head.
There has been several retired football players who have come forward with brain diseases.
They are attributing their condition to playing football and the hits they took.