PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — With football season right around the corner, there’s some concerning news for football players’ brains: almost all examined at autopsy showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.
A study from Boston University is the largest looking at a potential link between brain trauma from football and CTE. Of 111 NFL players’ brains donated for research, 110 showed the condition.
“Ninety-nine percent, that’s pretty compelling,” says AHN sports medicine specialist Dr. Ed Snell.
The pattern was worse for professional athletes, but findings consistent with CTE were also found in college players, and just a few high school players.
“These kids are getting, bigger, stronger, faster, and no amount of helmet is going to stop that linear acceleration, deceleration,” Dr. Snell said.
The brain prematurely breaks down after repeated blows to the head. The sudden, forceful stops against the head are what damage the brain.
“A helmet is not going to protect you. You’re going to have to change the rules of football,” he adds.
Symptoms occur in stages, usually years later, and can include dizziness, confusion, headaches, and later, thinking troubles, speech problems, tremors, and depression and suicide.
The pathologist examining the brain will see shrinkage of the tissue in proportion to the stage of CTE, and microscopically abnormal proteins in the brain substance itself.
Comparing the brains of players with suspected CTE to all players and also to the general population will add to our understanding of how big the risk is.
“I don’t think any parent wants their kid at 30, 40, 50 years old to have dementia,” says Dr. Snell.