CTE Brain Disease in Footballers is Endemic, Study Finds

CTE brain disease in footballers has made many headlines in recent years given its perceived link to suicides in players. A new study suggests it’s endemic – at least in players whose brains were studied.

A study in the medical journal JAMA found chronic traumatic encephalopathy was found in 99 percent of deceased NFL players’ brains that were studied.

This serious neurodegenerative brain disease is usually found in players who have been exposed to repeated head trauma.

The disease is marked by a buildup of abnormal tau protein in the brain that disables neuropathways and leads to a variety of clinical symptoms.

CTE Brain Disease in Footballers - Aaron Hernandez's brain to be studied

Aaron Hernandez - did the player have CTE?

Out of 202 deceased former football players, CTE was found in 177, the study said. The disease was identified in a staggering 110 out of 111 former NFL players. It was diagnosed in three of the 14 high school players and 48 of the 53 college players who were studied.

CTE brain disease in footballers often includes symptoms like confusion, impaired judgment, depression, anxiety, impulse control issues and even suicide.

The suicides of some big name players as well as some college athletes, has been linked to CTE.

Typically, CTE can only be diagnosed with an autopsy. These results are frightening and may just be the tip of the iceberg.

CTE Brain Injury in Footballers – The Suicides.

  • Aaron Hernandez – The disgraced former New England Patriots player was incarcerated for murder. He killed himself in prison in April. Boston University researchers are studying his brain for traces of CTE, reported
  • Dave Duerson- The safety whose 10-year career included playing for the Bears, the Giants and the Cardinals complained of a deteriorating mental state and shot himself in his Florida home in 2011.
  • Ray EasterlingEasterling played for the Atlanta Falcons from 1972 until his retirement in 1979. In 2011, he was one of several former NFL players who filed a suit against the league over its handling of concussion-related injuries. He shot himself in Richmond, Virginia in 2012.
  • Junior SeauThe linebacker who played for the Dolphins, the Chargers and the Patriots shot himself in San Diego in California at the age of 43.
  • Jovan Belcher – a linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs until 2009, shot and killed his girlfriend in 2012 before committing suicide.

Dr. Ann McKee, director of Boston University's CTE Center and co-author of the new study said:

“There’s no question that there's a problem in football., that people who play football are at risk for this disease. We urgently need to find answers for not just football players, but veterans and other individuals exposed to head trauma.”

The JAMA study is important because it’s the largest of its kind to date. All of the players who were studied had football as their primary exposure to head trauma. The criteria for submitting a brain to the study based on exposure to repetitive head trauma.

The study may be skewed toward players with CTE because relatives of the players submitted their brains to the study because of symptoms consistent with the disease.

The study also lacks a group to compare with that represents all individuals exposed to football at a college or a professional level.

Notwithstanding the limitations of this study, it makes it clear that CTE brain injury in footballers is a horrifying consequence of repeated concussions in football.

It puts the lives of players and their closest family members at risk. If you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury from football, you may be entitled to compensation. Call our experienced Virginia brain injury attorneys at (757) 455-0077.

Bill O'Mara

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