If you have played professional football, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have CTE. If you’ve played football at any level, there’s a good chance you have the neurodegenerative brain disease as well.
That’s according to a study published Tuesday in the medical journal JAMA (via CNN.com).
CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, is caused by repeated head trauma – the kind that happens during every football game – and is associated with symptoms such as memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, aggression, depression, anxiety, impulse control issues and even suicidal behavior. It was discovered by Dr. Bennet Omalu, played by Will Smith in the 2015 film “Concussion.”
That a lot of football players end up with CTE is not surprising. The percentages the study arrived at, though, are stunning.
According to CNN, scientists examined the brains of 202 deceased football players. Of those, 177 were found to have CTE. The disease was found in 110 of the 111 of former NFL players examined, including Ken Stabler, Kevin Turner, Bubba Smith and Dave Duerson. It was also found in 48 of 53 college players, and in three of 14 high school players.
While CTE can’t be confirmed until a person is dead, several former NFL players have been diagnosed with it while they were still living.
Junior Seau, one of many former players to have taken their own lives, was found to have had it, and some have speculated the disease contributed to murders carried out by O.J. Simpson and Aaron Hernandez. Hernandez’s brain will be examined for it.
This video discusses 10 famous cases of CTE among NFL players.
“There’s no question that there’s a problem in football. That people who play football are at risk for this disease,” said Dr. Ann McKee, who co-authored the study, the most comprehensive ever done on the subject. “And we urgently need to find answers for not just football players, but veterans and other individuals exposed to head trauma.”
In 2016, the NFL finally acknowledged there is a connection between playing football and CTE. For years, the league denied there was any proof linking the two, but in 2015, a federal judge approved a $900 million settlement between the NFL and thousands of former players who filed a class-action lawsuit against the league for failing to protect them against brain disease.
In a statement, the NFL said, “The medical and scientific communities will benefit from this publication and the NFL will continue to work with a wide range of experts to improve the health of current and former NFL athletes.”
Of course, the league continues to try to poke holes in the football/CTE narrative: “There are still many unanswered questions relating to the cause, incidence and prevalence of long-term effects of head trauma such as CTE,” it said in the statement.
Whatever. The study seems pretty solid to us, and it’s our recommendation that young men find a sport other than football to play.