It has become terrifyingly routine for deceased former NFL players to be diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The NFL continues to downplay the issues of brain injuries in the league as they continue their protracted legal battle with former players, but new data from the nation’s largest brain bank dedicated to traumatic brain injury (TBI) shows 76 of the 79 former NFL players examined exhibited signs of the neurodegenerative brain disease.
Jason M. Breslow from Frontline reports that these findings represent more than a twofold increase in the number of cases of CTE reported by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ brain repository in Bedford, Mass.
Researchers have examined the brains of 128 football players who competed at the professional, semi-professional, college, or football level. Of those examined, 101 players, or just under 80 percent, were found to have CTE.
This sample isn’t quite as scary as it may sound. CTE can only be diagnosed after death currently, and the majority of former players to contribute their brains for examination were suspected of having the condition before their passing. However, the data also shows that CTE is relatively widespread among professional athletes in the sport.
“Obviously this high percentage of living individuals is not suffering from CTE,” said Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist who directs the brain bank as part of a collaboration between the VA and Boston University’s CTE Center. But “playing football, and the higher the level you play football and the longer you play football, the higher your risk.”