The results of a study by Dr. Ann McKee into the brains of deceased NFL football players was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association. Dr. McKee studied the brains of 202 deceased football players of which 111 played in the NFL and 110 showed signs of CTE. Dr. McKee is the Chief of Neuropathology at the VA Boston Healthcare System and the Director of the CTE Center at Boston University.
NeuroNotes has written many blogs about CTE or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy and the many famous sports figures who have experienced problems associated with multiple concussions. The signs of CTE are memory loss, confusion, depression and dementia. Dr. Bennett Omalu, a pathologist working in Pittsburgh, examined the brain of Mike Webster, a former Pittsburgh Steeler, whose profound deterioration affected every aspect of his life. Dr. Omalu noted the pathological changes in Iron Mike’s brain and later in the brains of other former football players he examined. Dr. Omalu struggled to get the NFL to recognize his findings which for many years they fought. The movie, “Concussion”, was based on Dr. Omalu’s research and discovery of CTE and the difficulties he faced to gain recognition of his work which established the foundation for the ongoing research and work related to multiple concussions.
Dr. McKee’s study has identified the positions associated with a high incidence rate of CTE. Linemen represented 44 of the 110 cases and running backs 20 cases. The ages of death in the study ranged from 23 to 89. Some of the individuals were famous players known to many and other names were withheld by family members. The study was composed of donated brains which belonged to individuals who were showing signs of CTE.
Ann McKee, MD, commented “It is no longer debatable whether or not there is a problem in football- there is a problem”. Clearly Dr. McKee’s study confirms the relationship of multiple concussions to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Now, the challenge is for the NFL and other sports organizations to address the problem and eliminate the risks.