Study finds brain damage common among retired NFL players

Pittsburgh Steelers fans will likely know that pro football has been linked with the progressive and degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy. One of the biggest challenges facing researchers is that the condition can only be detected when an autopsy is performed, and there is no way to test living players for CTE. However, the evidence that a great many current and former players have suffered some form of brain damage continues to grow.

A study of the brains of 40 former professional football players found a high rate of cognitive problems and widespread brain damage. The players involved had an average of seven years of NFL experience and had all retired within the last five years. Almost half of the former players had memory and learning problems, and MRI tests revealed damaged white matter in the brains of 43 percent. White matter connects the nerve cells in different areas of the brain. This level of damage is considered serious enough to be classed as traumatic.

The findings of the study were presented to the American Academy of Neurology during the society’s annual meeting in British Columbia. While researchers found no link between traumatic brain injury and the number of concussions suffered by players, they did conclude that the chances of TBI increased the longer players spent in the NFL. This indicates that the damage is done by repetitive contact rather than a few major blows.

Contact sports are of course not the only cause of brain injuries, which frequently arise from car collisions or sudden falls. If the injury can be attributed to the negligence of another party, legal counsel could assist in seeking compensation for medical costs and other losses.