A new study conducted by researchers at Boston University School of Medicine and VA Boston Healthcare System reveals a connection between former football players’ brains and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
The research team examined 202 brains from former football players to determine if there was a link between CTE and football. The researchers noted that their methodology is not precise and is not aimed at predicting the future, but it does show a strong correlation between the two factors.
CTE is a degenerative brain disease associated with repeated blows to the head. The disease causes confusion, memory loss, impulse control problems, impaired judgment, anxiety, depression and suicidal ideations. As the disease progresses, the individual will begin to experience memory loss and dementia. The disease can only be diagnosed through autopsy after death.
From the 202 brains analyzed in the study, 177 were confirmed to have CTE (87 percent). A total of 111 of the brains were from former NFL players and CTE was found in 110 of those, which was the highest level. On a high school level, three of 14 brains were confirmed to have CTE (21.4 percent), on a college level, 48 of 53 were confirmed to have CTE (90.6 percent) and semiprofessional football, 9 of 14 (64.3 percent) and CFL, 7 of 8 (87.5 percent).
“Obviously, this doesn’t represent the prevalence in the general population, but the fact that we’ve been able to gather this high a number of cases in such a short period of time says that this disease is not uncommon,” said Anne McKee, direct of the Boston University CTE Center. “In fact, I think it’s much more common than we currently realize and more importantly, this is a problem in football that we need to address and we need to address it now in order to bring some hope and optimism to football players.”
The findings provides “overwhelming circumstantial evidence that CTE is linked to football,” McKee said.
The National Football League has pledged resources and $100 million to CTE research, as well as helmet safety research.
“We appreciate the work done by Dr. McKee and her colleagues for the value it adds in the ongoing quest for a better understanding of CTE,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement. “Case studies such as those compiled in this updated paper are important to further advancing the science and progress related to head trauma.”
The authors noted that there are some limitations in their study. For one, football players are now utilizing improved safety equipment, but the findings call for further study.