NFL: Detroit Lions at Indianapolis Colts
Sep 11, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; A view of the Detroit Lions logo on a helmet on the sidelines during a game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Lions won 39-35. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

New research has unearthed another strong connection between participation in football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The new study led by senior researcher and author Dr. Ann McKee draws on her previous work on concussions and brain injuries.

The scientists examined the donated brains of deceased people who had participated in football. The findings are nothing short of astounding:

“In a convenience sample of 202 deceased players of American football from a brain donation program, CTE was neuropathologically diagnosed in 177 players across all levels of play (87%), including 110 of 111 former National Football League players (99%).”

This new research is a continuation of work that was begun by this research team in 2015. Dr. McKee told NPR today that the research is incredibly important.

“This is by far the largest [study] of individuals who developed CTE that has ever been described. And it only includes individuals who are exposed to head trauma by participation in football.”

In short, this study seems to confirm the notion that not only is football a very dangerous game, playing it may lead to long term mental disease.

Dr. McKee was careful to note that this is research done only on the brains of deceased players. Bodies are not typically donated to science unless there is a good reason. It is likely that these remains were donated due to the people demonstrating symptoms of CTE while alive. To summarize that: it’s important not to extrapolate that 99% of all NFL players have or will develop CTE. However, this study finds a very strong association between participating in football and brain injury. Dr. McKee spoke to that issue with NPR today.

“We’re seeing this [CTE] in a very large number that participated in football for many years. So while we don’t know the exact risk and we don’t know the exact number, we know this is a problem in football.”

More research in this area is definitely needed to help understand this issue.

Looking for more information on this topic? DSN has you covered. Start with this article written in September of 2015 about Dr. McKee’s original study. Furthermore, many players have discussed the dangers and concerns over CTE including DeAndre Levy, former Michigan State University football players, and Calvin JohnsonFormer NFL lineman Eugene Monroe has retired early due to injury and is campaigning for the league to change its stance on pain management and safety.

Finally, if you’re looking for more information on the subject, look no further than our three part exclusive interview (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) on concussions with Dr. Jon Lieff and Dr. Elizabeth Sandel.

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