Study Finds Definite Link Between Brain Trauma and Football
A recent study has found what one newspaper terms an “incontrovertible link” between playing football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive deterioration of the brain. CTE can cause depression, undue aggression, memory loss, dementia, and suicidal thoughts.
CTE: 87% of players overall and 99% of NFL players show signs
Many football players are subject to repeated concussions as part of playing the sport. While the link between these and brain deterioration has increasingly been argued in recent decades, the National Football League (NFL) for many years denied a clear link. This study, conducted by Boston University researchers, is an addition to the growing body of evidence indicating that concussions and other jarring of the brain common in football is tied to CTE.
The brains of 87% of the 202 players studied overall showed signs of CTE, which can only be determined via postmortem brain examination. Among NFL players, 99% — or 110 out of 111 — had CTE.
It is estimated that linemen receive roughly 15,000 hits over a 10-year period that can cause the brain to be jarred in a manner that leads to CTE.
Despite the very high level of CTE in NFL players, however, one of the most notable findings of the study was that roughly 25% of players who had only played in high school displayed signs of CTE. They were as young as 23. That implies that the signs can start very early, and several years can be enough to cause brain tissue deterioration.
An end to high school football?
The finding has caused observers to wonder if high school football should be actively discouraged. While helmets can protect against some injuries, they do not protect against all concussions, repeated concussions, or intracranial brain movement caused by repeated hits to the head and or body. All of these can cause CTE.
The study’s authors noted that further study is needed. While it increasingly appears that football and CTE are linked, there may also be factors such as genetic predisposition that play a role.
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Additional “football and brain trauma” resources:
- Picard, Andre. “CTE and Violent Sports: It’s Time To Rethink Our Approach.” The Globe and Mail. July 25, 2017. https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/its-time-to-rethink-our-approach-to-violent-sports-like-football-that-can-lead-to-brain-injury/article35801195/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com&
- Van Groningen, Nicole. “All But One of 111 Former Pro Football Players Had Brain Injury CTE in Study.” ABC News. July 25, 2017. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/111-pro-football-players-brain-injury-cte-study/story?id=48838098