Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (C.T.E.), a degenerative brain disease, has become a significant concern in American football. This progressive and fatal brain disease is associated with repeated traumatic brain injuries, including concussions and repeated blows to the head. It's a condition found predominantly in athletes, military veterans, and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma.
The Boston University C.T.E. Center, a leading research institution on this subject, recently released alarming statistics regarding the prevalence of C.T.E. among former National Football League (NFL) players. According to their latest report, out of 376 former NFL players studied, an astounding 345 have been diagnosed with C.T.E. This represents a staggering 91.7 percent of the studied group, underscoring the severity of this issue within the sport.
However, it's crucial to note that these figures should not be interpreted as indicative of the prevalence of C.T.E. among all current and former NFL players. Ann McKee, MD, director of the BU CTE Center, points out that the samples studied are subject to selection biases, and the prevalence of C.T.E. among NFL players remains unknown. C.T.E. can only be definitively diagnosed after death, further complicating determining its true prevalence.
CT.E. symptoms can range from memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, anxiety, parkinsonism, and, eventually, progressive dementia. These symptoms often begin years or even decades after the last brain trauma or end of active, athletic involvement.
Despite the grim statistics, there is hope. The Boston University C.T.E. Center is actively working on research studies designed to learn how to diagnose and treat C.T.E. They are inviting former athletes, including women, to participate in these studies. One such study, Project S.A.V.E., aims to determine how repeated head impacts from playing contact sports can lead to long-term thinking, memory, and mood problems.
Moreover, while C.T.E. cannot yet be diagnosed during life, advancements in brain imaging techniques like magnetic resonance imaging (M.R.I.) may expedite the ability to diagnose C.T.E. with confidence in living individuals.