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How CTE was found in 110 of 111 National Football League players' brains

26 July 2017

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) - a neurodegenerative brain disease - was found in almost all of the donated brains of National Football League (NFL) players examined in a new study by the Journal of the American Medical Association. Almost 88 percent of all the brains, 177, had CTE. "In fact, I think it's much more common than we now realize". All specimens belonged to former football players at all levels of the sport.

He added that one of the other important findings of the study is that CTE, in a clinical sense, is very similar to Alzheimer's.

The latest study from an ongoing Boston University examination of the brains of former football players has yielded more ominous results.

"A family is much more likely to donate if they're concerned about their loved one - if they're exhibiting symptoms or signs that are concerning them, or if they died accidentally or especially if they committed suicide", she said.

In that vein, the AP writes that "McKee said research from the brain bank may lead to answers and an understanding of how to detect the disease in life, "while there's still a chance to do something about it". As part of a massive concussion lawsuit settlement with thousands of former NFL players, reached in 2013, the league didn't have to acknowledge any wrongdoing. The medical and scientific communities will benefit from this publication and the National Football League will continue to work with a wide range of experts to improve the health of current and former National Football League athletes.

CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, can only be diagnosed posthumously. He is a researcher with the Boston University School of Medicine's CTE Center. CTE can only be definitively diagnosed after death.

Researchers found high school players had mild cases of CTE, while college and professional players had severe pathology.

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The former Chicago Bears running back Mike Adamle said he and others have formed a "fraternity" of players who have suspected cases of the disease.

The impact of concussions and head trauma meted out on the football field has been an active area of study in recent years.

Of the 202, 111 had played in the NFL. Clearly, though, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the league must do more to spark further research and take additional precautions to protect its players. But the percentage of people who spend a lifetime playing football that end up with CTE is certainly still staggering.

That study also had its limitations, and the authors noted that the game 60 years ago is different in many ways from the present-day high school football experience, from playing style to equipment to the rule book. In other words, symptomatic confirmation for a positive CTE diagnosis was present in most cases before the posthumous analysis.

Researchers in the current JAMA study diagnosed CTE in 87 percent of 202 former football players - including those in high school, college, NFL, Canadian Football League and semipro leagues.

"This is just the individuals who have come into our bank", said McKee, noting it is unclear how many more players may have the disease. "It's always tricky for us to get funding".

Liu's principal research interests relate to restorative neurosurgery, including surgical, technological (advanced neuroprostheses, robotics) and biological strategies (stem cell transplantation) to restore function to the nervous system after injury due to trauma, stroke or neurodegenerative disease.

How CTE was found in 110 of 111 National Football League players' brains