CTE—a degenerative brain disease—was found in 87 of 91 deceased former NFL players, further strengthening the connection between football and serious brain problems later in life, researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University announced today. Sports Illustrated reports researchers found CTE—which causes depression, dementia, and memory loss—in 96% of former NFL players they've examined and 79% of all players who played the sport at any level starting in high school. “People think that we’re blowing this out of proportion, that this is a very rare disease, and that we’re sensationalizing it,” one researcher tells Frontline. “My response is that where I sit, this is a very real disease. We have had no problem identifying it in hundreds of players.”
Frontline reports 40% of the players who tested positive for CTE—which is only identifiable after death—were offensive and defensive linemen, who crash into other players on every play. This fits with previous research that shows it's the frequent, less serious head injuries that cause the disease, not the major concussions typically focused on. Following today's announcement, the NFL released a statement that it is dedicated to making the sport safer through new technology and rules. Frontline reports concussions in NFL games were down 28% between 2012 and 2014. But as recently as 2009, the league was claiming that players never suffered chronic brain damage nor received repetitive blows to the brain.