A new study shows that former professional football players with chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE, a degenerative brain disease linked to repeated concussions, doubled their risk of developing the worst forms of the disease for every 5.3 years they played. According to a report in The New York Times, scientists have known that more years playing tackle football is associated with thinking and memory deficits later in life. This study builds on that research. But, for the first time, it calculated the number of years played with levels of measurable damage to the brain.
What the Study Found
The retrospective analysis in the new study was based largely on brains found to have CTW that were donated to researchers at Boston University, which has led research in this area. The findings were based on the lives of 266 former amateur as well as professional football players whose brains were donated to the CTE Center at Boston University.
The study found that the risk of developing CTE increased by 30% each year played when surveying all the players, including those who did not develop the disease. Family members provided information about how long the brain donors played football and other sports. For those who played fewer than 4.5 years, the chance of developing CTE was about one-tenth of what it was for those who played longer, the study found. Those who played more than 14.5 years were 10 times more likely to develop CTE than those who played fewer years.
Challenges in Understanding CTE
The problem with studying and researching CTE lies in the fact that it can only be diagnosed after the person’s death. It is identified by the buildup of tau protein in some parts of the brain. CTE has been linked to various problems including depression, dementia, mood swings, impulse control issues, and suicidal thoughts. Right now, there is no test that can diagnose CTE in the living. So, researchers have been trying to reconstruct the lives of deceased players to determine the risk factors that might have contributed to its development.
We know much more about the effect concussions can have on the brain. Where years ago, concussions were believed to be “mild” traumatic brain injuries, we know today that repeated concussions could have devastating effects on the human brain. Schools, colleges, and sports teams must be cognizant of these facts and take the necessary precautions with athletes. If you or a loved one has suffered brain damage or traumatic brain injury due to someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, please contact an experienced brain injury lawyer to better understand your legal rights.