Research on 202 former football players found evidence of brain disease in nearly all of them, from athletes in the NFL, college, and even high school. It's the largest update on chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a brain disease linked with repeated head blows. CTE was diagnosed in 177 former players or nearly 90% of brains studied, but the report, published Tuesday in JAMA, doesn't confirm that the condition is common in all football players. Rather, it reflects high occurrence in samples at a Boston brain bank that studies CTE. Many donors or their families contributed because of the players' repeated concussions and troubling symptoms before death, reports the AP.
That includes 110 of 111 brains from former NFL players; 48 of 53 college players; nine of 14 semi-professional players, seven of eight Canadian Football league players, and three of 14 high school players. The disease was not found in brains from two younger players. The average age of death among all players studied was 66. There were 18 suicides among the 177 diagnosed. "There are many questions that remain unanswered," says lead author Dr. Ann McKee, a Boston University neuroscientist: "How common is this" in the general population and all football players? "How many years of football is too many?" and "What is the genetic risk? Some players do not have evidence of this disease despite long playing years," she notes. (Read more CTE stories.)