New brain-injury report leads some to question football

Arnold Nichols
July 28, 2017

Of the 111 National Football League players whose brains were donated for the study, 110 were diagnosed with CTE. "We just don't really know, and we don't have enough information at this time", said Holmen High School Head Football Coach Travis Kowalski. According to a report released on Tuesday, July 25, 2017 by the Journal of the American Medical Association, research on the brains of 202 former football players has confirmed what many feared in life _ evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a devastating disease in almost all the samples, from athletes in the NFL, college and even high school. It is quite possible that developing CTE-like brain lesions is a normal part of aging.

Of the 84 participants with severe CTE pathology, 75 had behavioral symptoms, mood symptoms, or both; 80 had cognitive problems; and 71 showed signs of dementia. Additionally, the researchers talked to the players' next of kin to get a glimpse into their history involving head trauma, athletic participation, and military service. Most worrisome, even among those who only played football in high school, almost a quarter of them tested positive for that disease.

AS a new American football season is set to begin, researchers examining the brains of deceased NFL players have found that 99 percent of them showed signs of degenerative disease - believed to be caused by repeated blows to the head. The disease was not found in brains from two younger players. The NCAA settled a class-action concussion lawsuit a year ago, agreeing to spend $75 million on medical monitoring of college athletes and prevention research.

However, it is unknown if CTE and Alzheimer's are related. It's only post-mortem testing that reveals the disease's ravages on the brain.

Arizona researchers may have developed the first test to diagnose someone with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, aka CTE, before they die.

Some of it has already occurred with advances in helmet design and concussion protocols, but it's becoming more clear that a ban on the game or a major adjustment in the way it's played is unlikely, precisely because recent findings make players all too aware of the risks. Compared with healthy people and those with Alzheimer's, the former athletes had higher levels tau accumulation in the amygdala and subcortical regions of the brain, which are the areas that control learning, memory, behavior, emotions, and other mental and physical functions.

The NFL has a concussion protocols in place and so does the WIAA here in Wisconsin at the high school level, however football is a violent contact sport and there will always be a risk that comes with it. He is also Acting Director of the Center for Bioethics and Clinical Leadership, and Project Director of its Advanced Certificate Program for Research Ethics in Central and Eastern Europe.

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