A shocking new study published this week revealed that 99 percent of the brains of former NFL players that have been donated for research showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). To date, the study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association is the largest of its kind.
What is CTE exactly? It’s the result of repeated head trauma that is commonly diagnosed in veterans as well as people who have played contact sports, especially American football.
The study consisted of a total of 202 brains from men who played football at the high school, college, or professional level, and of those 202 brains, CTE was diagnosed in 177. Out of all of those players, 111 of them were brains of men who played in the NFL, and all but one was found to have CTE.
This new study even has NFL players thinking about their longevity in the game, and what the possible effects could be.
As the news from the study spread, Andrew Hawkins, a wide receiver for the New England Patriots, made an announcement that he will retire and donate his brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation for CTE study.
He said, “After OTAs (organized team activities) and through the summer training, my body just wasn’t responding and didn’t feel the way that it should going into camp.”
Hawkins, 31, and other individuals who play this position usually retire between the ages of 34 and 37. He took to his Twitter account to make the announcement on July 25.
The flaws in the study are hard to avoid because doctors can’t currently diagnose CTE while a patient is alive, however, the results still indicate a need for urgency at all levels of football in preventing CTE. These players basically put their lives on the line when they step onto the field, and hopefully, the league will now take heed and help in figuring out how to protect these men.
"There's no question that there's a problem in football. That people who play football are at risk for this disease," Dr. Ann McKee, the director of Boston University's CTE Center and the co-author of this study, told CNN. "And we urgently need to find answers for not just football players, but veterans and other individuals exposed to head trauma."
What the researchers will do to get these answers is to look at things like the age of people who first experience head trauma, lengths of exposure to the trauma, and how CTE relates to the length of players' careers. The researchers will also take a look at the brains that tested positive during this recent study to see if there are any genetic risk factors to take into consideration.
“It certainly can be prevented,” McKee said, “and that’s why we really need to understand how much exposure to head trauma and what type of head trauma the body can sustain before it gets into this irreversible cascade of events.”
The New York Times published an interactive overview of the study’s results, which is definitely worth checking out, and pointed out the fact that about 1,300 former NFL players have passed away since Boston University’s CTE Center began studying the condition.
The NFL responded to the study.
“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. ... The NFL is committed to supporting scientific research into CTE and advancing progress in the prevention and treatment of head injuries.”
That’s great to hear because the link between football and CTE is clear, and there’s still so much to learn when it comes to diagnosing, treating, and above all, preventing CTE.
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