Study Finds Brain Disease in 99% of Former NFL Athletes

Study Finds Brain Disease in 99% of Former NFL Athletes

Brain injuries are notorious for their unpredictable nature, especially when it comes to long-term effects on health and cognitive function. Over the years, there has been mounting evidence linking brain injuries to serious adverse outcomes, including neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Parkinson’s, dementia, and more. These adverse outcomes have been most noticeable among athletes in contact sports, such as boxing, where repetitive head trauma is part of the game.

When it comes to sports and brain injuries, football-related head trauma has also been a focus for researchers, safety advocates, and the many players and victims who have been left to deal with alarming consequences of their careers. In recent years, the National Football League has made headlines over lawsuits filed by thousands of former athletes who claimed concussions and head injuries sustained during their time on the field led to life-altering, and sometimes life-ending, medical conditions.

In a study recently published in the JAMA medical journal, researchers from Boston University’s CTE Center analyzed just how prevalent brain disease is among former football players. Their findings were incredibly overwhelming:

  • Researchers found that 99% of former NFL athletes whose brains were analyzed in the study had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive neurodegenerative brain disease that can have life-altering effects on victims and their loved ones, including behavioral disturbances (aggression, depression, anxiety, or erratic behavior), impaired judgment, memory loss, early onset dementia, and suicidal behavior.
  • Researchers also found CTE in 3 out of 14 high school football players, and 48 of 55 college athletes.

The findings, while not definitive, are an alarming and expected result that supports established links between repetitive head injuries and football. These links were the subject of a high profile lawsuit against the NFL, which was recently settled to provide former players who suffer from various disorders and neurological conditions with financial compensation. Although the lawsuit was settled in 2015, it was not until 2016 that the NFL officially acknowledged the association between football and serious long-term disorders of the brain. It was argued that the NFL knew of these risks long before its acknowledgement, yet failed to address them.

Using Research to Benefit Victims & Public Safety

Part of the sluggishness in addressing the long-term effects of football and head trauma stem from the complexity of the human brain and how little we currently know about the way it works, responds to trauma, and repairs itself. Additionally, there are issues in diagnosing conditions such as CTE, which can only be discovered after death via an autopsy.

Although there is still much work to be done in exploring and understanding the links between repeated concussions and long-term outcomes – as well as ways to manage risks and prevent cognitive impairment as athletes age – the study is helping raise awareness about the issue and why brain injuries must always be taken seriously. To date, the information and research have not only prompted lawsuits, but also helped to change policies at all levels of contact sports when it comes to reducing concussion risks and establishing better protocol for when athletes do experience brain injuries. These include youth, high school, college, and professional leagues that have changed rules about head collisions, and created strict guidelines for removing athletes who suffer concussions and allowing them to return to play. Studies such as this can also prove beneficial in helping former athletes understand the importance of treatment. Although CTE is not diagnosable until after death, symptoms associated with the disease, including depression and anxiety, are treatable.

As the research progresses, it may also prove crucial in helping victims of brain injuries better illustrate the nature of their damages in civil personal injury cases. Personal injury claims enable victims, and their loved ones, to secure compensation not only for past damages, but also for any damages they can reasonably expect to encounter in the future. For those with severe brain injuries or repetitive head trauma, such research can highlight risks they face of suffering serious debilitating conditions as they age, and enable them to pursue additional compensation to account for the medical expenses and future pain and suffering they may incur.

Our Los Angeles personal injury attorneys at Biren Law Group have helped numerous victims who have suffered brain injuries due to various incidents and accidents. We believe in the power of ongoing research to not only help victims already suffering, but to also help in finding better ways for preventing injuries and the profound outcomes they can create.

If you have questions about brain injuries, your rights, and how our firm can assist you with evaluating a potential personal injury case, contact us for a FREE consultation.


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