In total, 87 percent of 202 deceased football players from all levels, including high school, college, semi-pro, the Canadian Football League and NFL, were diagnosed with CTE. All but one turned out to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the neurological disease that causes depression, memory loss and dementia.
Researchers from the VA Boston Healthcare System and Boston University School of Medicine found "overwhelming circumstantial evidence that CTE is linked to football", neuropathologist Ann McKee, who diagnosed numerous brains, said, according to the Washington Post.
The current report, from the lab of Dr. Ann McKee - one of the pre-eminent researchers in this area - documents the autopsy results of 202 former football players.
Researchers still don't know how common it is in football or the general population.
Last year, the Supreme Court upheld a decision for the National Football League to pay almost $1 billion in concussion and brain trauma payouts to roughly 4,500 retired players. Nowhere is that more obvious than in this study, appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association. "Let's get together and actually do something about it", she said. In other words, symptomatic confirmation for a positive CTE diagnosis was present in most cases before the posthumous analysis.
That study also had its limitations, and the authors noted that the game 60 years ago is different in many ways from the present-day high school football experience, from playing style to equipment to the rule book.
- Among 27 participants found to have a mild CTE pathology, 26 had behavioral or mood issues before their deaths.
Check out McKee's full study here. "It's always tricky for us to get funding".
The evidence is now overwhelming: Football, the most powerful, popular and profitable sport in America, is hazardous to the health of those who play it.
The condition, which now can be diagnosed only by taking brain tissue from a dead subject, has been diagnosed in former players including Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau and Pro Bowl safety Dave Duerson, who both committed suicide. The development of other pathologies is age-related, said McKee, and raises the possibility that repetitive brain injury or CTE is a risk factor for multiple neurodegenerative diseases. How long can people turn their head at the data?
"I know I'm suffering through it, and it's been a struggle".
While alarming, the JAMA's summary of the study notes that the study, "lacked a comparison group that is representative of all individuals exposed to American football at the college or professional level, precluding estimation of the risk of participation in football and neuropathological outcomes". On the high end, the study is a true random sample and 99% of National Football League players have CTE. There were 18 suicides among the 177 diagnosed.