Study finds origin of fatal degenerative brain disease ‘CTE’

FILE - Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson warms up before taking on the Denver Broncos in an NFL football game Oct. 2, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. Researchers diagnosed former NFL player Jackson, who was found dead in a Florida hotel room in February 2021, as suffering from stage 2 chronic traumatic encephalopathy. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken, File)

FILE – Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson warms up before taking on the Denver Broncos in an NFL football game Oct. 2, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. Researchers diagnosed former NFL player Jackson, who was found dead in a Florida hotel room in February 2021, as suffering from stage 2 chronic traumatic encephalopathy. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken, File)

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A collection of sports doctors and scientists said they’ve found conclusive evidence that CTE is caused by successive head trauma. Neuroscientists claimed that the deadly degenerative disease observed in players of contact sports is definitely caused by constant head trauma.

Researchers from nine universities in collaboration with the Concussion Legacy Foundation found a correlation between traumatic head injury and development of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. They found athletes who participated in contact sports were 68 times more likely to develop this fatal ailment than those who didn’t. Former NFL Wide Receiver Demaryius Thomas was diagnosed with stage two CTE after he was found dead in the bathroom of his Georgia home in December.

CTE can only be diagnosed through posthumous brain tissue analysis but can be marked in a living person by symptoms of aggression, memory loss and severe personality changes.

“There’s no question that there’s a problem in football. That people who play football are at risk for this disease,” said Dr. Ann McKee, director of Boston University’s CTE Center and coauthor of the new study. “We urgently need to find answers for not just football players, but Veterans and other individuals exposed to head trauma.”

Officials said while concussions can lead to CTE, it’s often the numerous small hits which occur during contact sport competitions which lead to the degenerative disease. In a separate study, CTE was found in 99 percent of all deceased NFL players whose brains were donated to science as well as a number of high school, semi-pro and professional soccer players. Researchers said these findings could be used to push lawmakers to address CTE as a public health crisis among young adults in contact sports.

“The medical and scientific communities will benefit from this publication and the NFL will continue to work with a wide range of experts to improve the health of current and former NFL athletes,” the NFL told CNN in a statement. “There are still many unanswered questions relating to the cause, incidence and prevalence of long-term effects of head trauma such as CTE.”

The research indicated CTE is environmentally caused, meaning sports leagues like the NFL may be legally accountable for not minimizing brain damage in their players.

“The NFL is committed to supporting scientific research into CTE and advancing progress in the prevention and treatment of head injuries,” the NFL statement on the study said. “In 2016, the NFL pledged $100 million in support for independent medical research and engineering advancements in neuroscience related topics. This is in addition to the $100 million that the NFL and its partners are already spending on medical and neuroscience research.”

Internationally, 100 former rugby players have taken legal action against World Rugby. They believe the governing body failed to protect them from permanent brain injuries during their career.

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