Diciembre 09, 2019

Study shows link between playing football and neurodegenerative disease

26 Julio 2017, 03:04 | Cornelio Vivanco

Michigan NCAA college football head coach Jim Harbaugh speaks at Big Ten Media Day in Chicago Monday

Michigan NCAA college football head coach Jim Harbaugh speaks at Big Ten Media Day in Chicago Monday

The study examined the brains of deceased former football players (CTE can only be diagnosed after death) and found that 110 out of 111 brains of those who played in the NFL had CTE.

The largest ever study of cases of football players with the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has, again, found a link between the condition and "prior participation in football", particularly in professionals.

While the report, which was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, doesn't confirm that the condition is common in all football players, the Boston brain bank researchers diagnosed CTE in 177 former players, or almost 90 percent of the samples studied.

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. It should also be noted that the study doesn't determine exactly how common CTE is among players, nor does it make it clear how many years playing football could lead to a player being diagnosed with CTE. They found strong evidence of CTE, which is caused by repeated head trauma and is associated with a number of mood and behavioral disorders, including dementia. Having access to brain tissue allows the researchers to study possible mechanisms for CTE, and why some players develop it while others do not. In total, 84 of the 202 players had severe CTE.

McKee said that she does not expect the National Football League to fund CTE research in the future, because "the results are considered too damaging". In 2016, a health official with the NFL acknowledged the link between football and CTE for the first time.

While the disease can now only be diagnosed post-mortem, the researchers urge for a wide-ranging longitudinal study to better understand the impact head trauma has on football players across all levels.

The NFL said the player's claim "relied on no evidence at all". Their study almost doubles the number of CTE cases described in literature. At the high school level, three out 14 football players show signs of CTE. "This is not representative of American football players as a whole". "That means they most likely retired before the age of 25 and we still are seeing in some of those individuals very severe repercussions". It's about learning as much as we can from this methodologically rigorous cohort going forward, so we can begin to apply the knowledge that we've gained to help living athletes.

"In a sense, the press and the attention that we get has been ahead of the science". The more professionally someone played, the more severe their head trauma. McKee had said previously that Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau, who took his own life in 2012, had "at least Stage 2".

The league released a statement Tuesday about the results of the new study, saying it is committed to supporting research into CTE and finding ways to prevent head injuries and effectively treat them.

The moves to protect football players are important, says Cullum, despite the uncertainties still surrounding CTE and concussions.

"Some people have heads made of concrete, and it doesn't really affect some of those guys", he said. The other players studied played the sport in high school and college.

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