Study Finds CTE in 110 of 111 Former NFL Players’ Brains

Only one of the NFL brains studied did not have the degenerative disease.

July 26, 2017 10:35 am
NFL Brain Study
Dr. Ann C. McKee, Director of Boston Universitys CTE Center and Chief of Neuropathology at the VA Boston Healthcare System, analyzes brain tissue at the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston on May 31, 2017. Boston researchers who studied the brains of 202 deceased football players have published the most detailed portrait to date of the devastation wrought by a degenerative brain disease linked to repeated blows to the head. The study presents the largest number of CTE cases ever published and puts to rest any remaining arguments about whether the disease exists, said McKee, the study's lead author. (Stan Grossfeld/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

The brains of deceased football players hold an ominous warning for current National Football League athletes.

A new study examining the brains of NFL players found 99 percent of them had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the degenerative neurological disease linked with repeated blows to the head. Donated brains from the athletes, ranging from 23 to 89 year old, had played various positions on offense, defense, and special teams.

Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist and director of the CTE Center at Boston University, found signs of the disease in all but one of the 111 NFL brains studied. Out of the 202 brains examined in total, 87 percent of them had CTE and played football for an average of 15 years.

CTE causes a variety of symptoms including memory loss, emotional instability, confusion, depression, impulsive thoughts, and dementia. These problems can appear years after the brain trauma has stopped, but the disease can only be diagnosed after death.

According to the New York Times, there’s a “tremendous amount of selection bias” in the study since the brains of former NFL players often donated by their families because they showed signs of CTE. Still, the findings strongly show it’s more prevalent among professional football players than the general population.

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