Dr. Ann McKee, chief of neuropathology at VA Boston Healthcare System, recently studied the brains of 202 deceased football players, including 111 former NFL players. She examined them for signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated blows to the head. Of the 111 NFL players she examined, 110 of them showed signs of CTE.
Yes, you read that right: all but one of the NFL players’ brains showed signs of this disease.
Dr. McKee admits that there could be substantial selection bias on account of the fact that the reason the players’ families allowed the brains to be examined for the study was that the players had shown symptoms of CTE prior to their deaths. But even accounting for that probable bias, her findings are statistically significant and quite disturbing.
What is CTE?
CTE is a degenerative brain disease caused by repetitive brain trauma. That doesn’t necessarily mean serious trauma, like you’d see in a concussion. Instead, CTE is caused through a steady pattern of relatively light trauma, like the kind of contact linemen see on nearly every play.
CTE is also fairly common among military personnel, who encounter hundreds or thousands of sub-concussive head impacts over many years. So to be clear: It’s not the dramatic concussions that cause CTE, it’s the steady accumulation of impacts over the course of normal play.
In CTE, a protein called tau builds up in the brain, forming clumps that gradually spread through the brain. This kills brain cells and generally leads to an onset of symptoms in a patient’s late 20s or 30s. Some of the common early symptoms include impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and paranoia. As the sufferer ages, further symptoms include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, and dementia. Symptoms often worsen over time.
What is the Link Between Football and CTE?
Even if the deceased players in the study were the only CTE sufferers in the NFL, that would mean a CTE rate of nine percent among NFL players. That’s much higher than the CTE rate among the general population.
Generally, the NFL acknowledges the link between football and CTE. The league’s top health and safety official admitted there is a link. But Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, has rejected the scientific findings and hard evidence that there is a link between football and CTE.
So there is no clear consensus in the league at the moment, regardless of what the scientific evidence proves.
Contact our Firm.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a football or other sports accident, the Connecticut personal injury attorneys at the Law Office of Ronald M. Scherban, P.C. can help. Time is of the essence in these cases, so it is important to reach out to us as soon as possible. Our legal team will review your case and determine your best course of action moving forward.
The Law Office of Ronald M. Scherban, P.C. represents clients in the greater New Haven area and the entire state of Connecticut. Call us today at (203) 865-6414 to learn more about what we can do for you.