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McKee cautions that the study has some limitations and doesn’t attempt to pin point a CTE rate. The brains studied were mostly donated by concerned families, which means they weren’t random and not necessarily representative of all men who have played football.
“A family is much more likely to donate if they’re concerned about their loved one – if they’re exhibiting symp toms or signs that are concerning them, or if they died accidentally or especially if they committed suicide,” she said. “It skews for accidental deaths, suicide, and individuals with disabling or discomforting symptoms.”
While the study isn’t focused on causality, McKee says it provides “overwhelm ing circumstantial evidence that CTE islinked to football.” The NFLpledged $100mil lion for concussion-related research last September – $60 million on technological development, witha:nempha sison improving helmets, and $40 million earmarked for medical research – and in a statement a leaguespokesman expressed appreciation for the latest study.
“The medical and scien tific communities will ben efit from this publication and the NFL willcontinue to work with a wide range ofexperts to improve the health of current andformer NFL athletes,” said NFLspokesman BrianMcCar thy.”The NFLis committed to supporting scientific research into CTE and advancing progress in the prevention and treatment of head injuries”
The study marks the largest CTE case series ever published. The research was drawn from a brain bank established by the VA Bos ton Healthcare System, the Boston University School of Medicine and the Concussion Legacy Foundation.
The 177 brains found to – have CTE belonged to former players who had an average of IS years of football experience. In addition to the NFL diagnoses, the group included three of 14 who played at the high school level, 48of53who played in college, nine of 14 who competed for semiprofessionally and seven of eight who played in the Canadian Football League.
“To me, it’s very concern ing that we have college-level players who have severe CTE who did not go on to play professionally,” McKee said. “That means they most likely retired before the age of 25, and we still are seeing in some of those individuals very severe repercussions.”
The researchers distinguished between mild and severe cases of CTE, finding the majority of former col lege (56 percent), semi pro (56 percent) and professional (86 percent) players to have exhibited severe pathology
The impact of concussions and head trauma meted out on the football field has been an active area of study in recent years. And while much of the research has highlighted the potential long-term dangers posed by football, JAMA Neurology published a study this month that showed not all former players suffer from cognitive impairment.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania looked at Wisconsin men who graduated from high school in 1957, comparing those who played football in school and those who didn’t. The men were assessed for depression and cognitive impairment later in life – in their 60s and 70s – and the research found simi lar outcomes for those who played high school football and those who didn’t.
That study also had itslimitations, and the authors noted that the game 60 years ago is different in many ways from the present-day high school football experience.
The Boston University study doesn’t necessarily reflect the same era of football. According to the researchers, the vast majority of the brains studied belonged to players who played in the 1960s or later.In addition to examining the brains, researchers inter viewed family members and loved ones of the deceased and found that behavioral and mood symptoms were common with those who suffered from CTE, including 4
impulsivity, signs of depression, anxiety, hopelessness and violent tendencies.
While the disease can only the researchers urge for a wide-ranging longitudinal study to better understand the impact head trauma has on football players on all levels.be diagnosed post-mortem, I
In the meantime, the brain bank has about 425 donated brains, including those from men and women who played· a variety of sports, as well as military veterans, with many more pledged.
“It’s not an inert study,” McKee said. “This is a very large resource that will advance research in many directions….The whole point is to advance and acceler ate our knowledge of CTE in order to aid the living people who are at risk for it or who have it.”
1. C.T.E. often affects the superior frontal cortex, an area important for cognition and executive function, including working memory, planning and abstract reasoning.
2. The insula may be involved in C.T.E.- an area of the brain important in emotion·,· social perception and self-awareness.
3. The amygdala is often severely affected. It is important in emotional control,aggression and arudety
4.C.T.E.frequently damagesmammillaxy bodies, an area important in memory.