New Study Clearly Links Brain Disease to Sports-Related Concussions

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Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) Found in Brains of 110 Deceased NFL Players

 Are sports-related concussions in contact sports like football definitely connected to long-lasting head trauma? According to a recent study covered in The New York Times, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease of the brain, was found in 110 brains of deceased professional football players. The study was conducted by Ann McKee, a neuropathologist who is director of the CTE Center at Boston University and chief of neuropathology at the VA Boston Healthcare System.

In the study, McKee looked at 202 brains of former football players, of which 111 played in the National Football League (NFL). Of those 111 former NFL players, McKee determined that 110 showed signs of CTE. To put that number another way, more than 99% of the brains of former NFL players studied had markers of this degenerative brain disease. Some football positions appear to have greater rates of CTE than others. For instance, 44 of the players were former linemen, and 20 were running backs. On the lower end of the spectrum, only two players were tight ends, and only one of the players with CTE had been a punter.

The brains studied came from former players of varying ages, ranging from 23 to 89. Some of the athletes were notable players, while others only played for a short time. What the former professional football players appear to have in common is that they all sustained multiple blows to the head, resulting in traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), during their time on the field.

The fact that more than 99% of the brains of former NFL players studied developed CTE does not mean that more than 99% of current players will develop CTE. Dr. McKee emphasized that her study was not made up of a “random sample of N.F.L. retirees.” She explained, “there’s a tremendous selection bias,” given that the brains included in the study were all donated by families of former players because they believe their loved one showed signs of CTE. At the same time, 110 former players showing signs of the degenerative disease should not be taken lightly.


Get the Facts About Sports-Related Brain Injuries

 How often do sports-related brain injuries happen, and are some sports more dangerous than others? The following are some facts and figures reported by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS):

  • Cycling results in the highest number of sports-related brain injuries every year (almost 20% of all reported cases);
  • Football is the second leading cause of sports-related TBIs, accounting for more than 10% of all brain injuries reported;
  • Baseball, softball, and basketball result in anywhere from 6% to 8% of all reported sports-related head trauma every year; and
  • Recreational sports and activities, such as horseback riding and trampoline use, can also result in TBIs.

Many sports-related TBIs are preventable, especially if they are caused by a slip and fall accident. If you have questions about filing a claim, contact an experienced brain injury lawyer to determine your rights.

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