Chronic traumatic encephalopathy known as CTE has been found in 99 percent of deceased NFL players’ brains that were donated to scientific research. According to a study published in the medical journal JAMA, the neurodegenerative brain disease can be found in those who have been exposed to repeated head trauma. The disease is marked by a buildup of abnormal tau protein in the brain that could lead to symptoms such as memory loss, confusion, aggression, depression, anxiety, violent behavior or even suicidal ideation.
CTE and Brain Damage
CTE can only be formally diagnosed with an autopsy and a number of these cases have been seen in either veterans or people who play contact sports. It’s been seen among professional players in football, wresting and even hockey. The athletes who play football are at a disproportionately higher risk for this disease.
And researchers who conducted the study are saying that solutions need to be found right away for those who are exposed to head trauma. In 2016, the NFL publicly admitted for the first time, a connection between football and CTE. In June 2015, a federal judge approved a class action lawsuit settlement between the NFL and thousands of former players.
What the Study Shows
The JAMA study, the largest of its kind, found that out of 202 deceased former football players, CTE was diagnosed in 177. The disease was identified in the brains of 110 out of 111 former NFL players, in three out of 14 high school players and 48 out of 53 college players. The study examined both the brain pathology and the medical history of every participant, identifying four stages of pathological TE severity among the brains based on the amount of tau buildup and distribution.
For many years, the NFL has refuted research by experts that connected brain trauma to long-term cognitive impairment. Only recently has the league begun to publicly acknowledge that it has a problem. Research has also shown that brain injuries such as concussions that were previously thought to be “mild” brain injuries, can leave individuals with serious or lifelong disabilities.
As California brain injury attorneys, we hope systemic changes are made in the NFL and other contact sports to ensure that our current and future athletes don’t suffer lifelong consequences.