Newly Discovered Brain Disease linked to Head Trauma caused by Football

by Kennedy Szekely

In a constant controversy over the safety standards of sports in the United States and abroad, many are beginning to fear the need for extensive safety precautions after research shows the 87/91 deceased former NFL players show signs of brain disease due to concussions. Researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University have now identified the disease known as “chronic traumatic encephalopathy,” or CTE, in 96% of NFL players that they’ve examined and in 79% of all football players in general. The disease is believed to branch from recurring trauma to the head, and may cause conditions such as memory loss, depression and dementia. In total, they have found 131 out of 165 cases of CTE of individuals who either played football professionally or semi-professionally previous to their deaths. 40% who tested positive were the offensive and defensive linemen who come into contact with one another on every play of a game. This finding may support the case that several minor cases can lead to more damaging effects than a few major collisions that can cause concussions.

Brain scans have been used to identify signs of CTE in living players, but the disease can only be definitively identified posthumously. “People think that we’re blowing this out of proportion, that this is a very rare disease and that we’re sensationalizing it,” said McKee, a member of the lab that works in collaboration between the VA and BU. “My response is that where I sit, this is a very real disease. We have had no problem identifying it in hundreds of players.” A spokesman for the NFL has released the statement: “We are dedicated to making football safer and continue to take steps to protect players, including rule changes, advanced sideline technology, and expanded medical resources. We continue to make significant investments in independent research through our gifts to Boston University, the [National Institutes of Health] and other efforts to accelerate the science and understanding of these issues.” In 2010 the NFL donated $1 million towards the study of head injuries for their players.

Although many tend to think of just football players as the only recipients of CTE and concussions in general, other sports, like soccer and boxing, may show symptoms. Some are trying to push more extensive safety precautions on soccer players, requesting that they wear headgear and also that children should not head the ball until a more mature age. Some are also making a case for football players to not be able to tackle until later ages, to prevent head trauma from a young age.

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