Amid a renewed national controversy over brain injuries in NFL players and the athletes’ odds of developing more severe health conditions that can often result in death, a team of researchers found that 96 percent of the brains of deceased NFL players showed signs of brain trauma caused by repeated head injury.
During their study, researchers from Boston University and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) analyzed brain tissue of 91 now-deceased NFL players and found traces of a brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) which is widely believed to be caused by repetitive head concussions and other hits to the head.
Though it is often diagnosed after the patient died, CTE can have life-long consequences including cognitive decline, chronic depression, memory loss, and dementia. But sometimes the condition can also prove fatal.
VA researchers and their colleagues gained access to brain tissue samples of former NFL athletes from the nation’s largest brain tissue bank. The team diagnosed with CTE dead 87 NFL players. Additionally, they found the condition in 79 percent of all late football players.
In other words, CTE was found in 131 dead football players who played the sport on a professional or non-professional level including college students or high schoolers.
The research team also found that 40 percent of players diagnosed with CTE were linemen that had to physically confront their rivals and come in close contact every game. This suggests that not major trauma leads to CTE and death, but minor and repeated head injuries left untreated. These apparently insignificant head injuries are more dangerous on the long run than obvious collisions that lead to concussions, researchers noticed.
Yet, the recent study has some limitations. CTE can also be diagnosed while the patient is still alive through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerized topographies (CT). But the chances of having a full-fledged diagnosis increase significantly, after the patient’s death.
Critics of the study said that many of the players that agreed to donate tissue to the brain bank after their death were absolutely positive that they have a potentially fatal brain disease. This is why scientists had a skewed sample group to perform an analysis on.
But despite these limitations, critics admit that the numbers are consistent with other studies that had found a link between repeated head trauma and high risk of degenerative brain disease on the long run.
Researchers said that people think that they may be exaggerating while trying to find these links, but the numbers cannot lie.
“[…] this is a very real disease. We have had no problem identifying it in hundreds of players,”
said Dr of the Ann McKee of the VA Boston Healthcare System who was also involved in the study.
Image Source: Wikimedia
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