In the strongest evidence to date, a study shows that football is the most dangerous sport from a medical standpoint. It tells how most NFL players suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – a degenerative brain disease that goes undetected until after death.
The Department of Veterans Affairs’ brain repository in Bedford, Massachusetts, examined the brain tissues of 128 subjects, who had all played competitive football at some point in their lives. A staggering 101 people, or roughly 80 percent of the total number tested, suffered from CTE.
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The numbers jumped even higher when the study was narrowed down to professional football players. Of the 79 former NFLers, 76, or 96 percent, tested positive for the chronic cerebral disease that has long mystified medical science.
“Obviously this high percentage of living individuals is not suffering from CTE,” said Dr. Ann McKee, a brain bank neuropathologist. “[But] playing football and the higher the level you play football and the longer you play football, the higher your risk.”
CTE is usually found in people with a history of concussions and other head injuries, but its existence can only be confirmed in postmortem examinations. It leads to dementia, memory loss, heightened aggression, confusion and depression, which to some extent explains the rather peculiar behavior of some NFL athletes.
Depression alone can sometimes be so unbearable for athletes with CTE that they end up committing suicide to rid themselves of the pain. Junior Seau, Ray Easterling and Dave Duerson are a few of the very famous examples of this tragic ending. In some cases, CTE patients' ultra-aggression also led them to commit murders. Former Chiefs Jovan Belcher and professional wrestler Chris Benoit's murder sprees are cases in point.
In 2011, a group of 4,500 former NFL players filed a class action lawsuit against the league after they showed signs consistent with CTE. The case was settled two years later, but the league did not come up with any reforms to prevent head injuries or at least reduce their alarming frequency among the players who power their sport. The idea of improving head gear and making them sturdier was discussed last year, but nothing real came of it either.
The issues of player safety isn’t given much thought at the NFL headquarters because they have more pressing concerns like tripling the league's revenues by the year 2027. The issue doesn't feature high on the media's priorities either. Even fans are complicit as they love bashing Ray Rices and the Adrian Petersons for their mistakes but completely ignore the point that there is a high chance these seemingly fit athletes could have a major disease stewing in their craniums. Let's hope this report opens up the right people's minds.
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