In an effort to further the study of chronic traumatic encephalopathy among football players, families of deceased former NFL football players donated the brains of their loved ones so researchers could check for signs of the neurodegenerative disease. Two hundred and two brains were examined by the Boston University School of Medicine and the VA Boston Healthcare System in a recent brain injury study, and found signs of CTE in 177 of the brains, or 87 percent. The disease appeared to be more prevalent among NFL players who competed at the highest level, with all but one of the 111 brains examined showing evidence of CTE.
Neuropathologist, Ann McKee, says that while this particular study obviously does not represent the general population, it does tell researchers that the disease is not all that uncommon. What’s more, if football players are developing CTE at such a staggering rate, the problem needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. Capitol Hill lawmakers have been monitoring the issue, and, according to Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, “The time for denying facts and looking the other way is over…”
Schakowsky added that the well-being and health of football players must be better protected, while four Democrats who serve on the House Energy and Commerce Committee found the study “heartbreaking,” noting we must continue to take steps to protect football players from CTE. McKee reminded those reading the study—which was published in the JAMA—that the study does have certain limitations, most notably that the brains studied were donated by concerned families. This means the sampling of brains studied were not necessarily representative of all football players, since it is likely a family would only donate their loved one’s brain if there were concerning symptoms.
The study does, however, provide strong circumstantial evidence that CTE is definitely linked to football and other contact sports. Last September, the NFL pledged $100 million to go to research on concussions among football players. More than half of that money is earmarked for technological development, in particular, improving helmet safety, while about $40 million has been designated to further CTE research. Despite the limitations noted by McKee, the study is the largest CTE research study ever undertaken.
Aside from the 111 NFL players’ brains, there were 14 brains from those who played football at the high school level, 53 from college football players, 14 from semi-professional football players and 8 from the Canadian Football League. Forty-eight of the 53 college football players showed evidence of CTE, while three of the fourteen high school football players showed evidence of CTE. Nine of the semi-pro players and seven out of eight of the Canadian football players showed at least some level of CTE. These results seem to point to major repercussions from concussions among those players who probably never played the sport after their mid-twenties.
When a person has CTE, a protein known as Tau, forms clumps which slowly spread throughout the brain. While CTE has been seen in those as young as 17, symptoms generally do not begin appearing for many years following the head impact or impacts. Mood and behavior can be affected by CTE, including such problems as paranoia, depression, aggression and impulse control. As the disease progresses, patients can experience memory loss, confusion, impaired judgement and progressive dementia. Mood and behavioral symptoms of CTE tend to manifest first, followed by cognitive symptoms later, usually in the patient’s 40’s or 50’s. The symptoms of CTE can cause serious problems in the victim’s life, as well as for his or her family and friends.
If you or someone you love has sustained a traumatic brain injury because of the negligence of another person or organization, you have a right to seek compensation for your injuries. Contact the law firm of Fuicelli & Lee, PC, for a free case evaluation. You pay nothing unless you receive a financial settlement or award. Call our office at 303-355-7202 or fill out our confidential contact form.
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