The majority of football players who donated their brains to research suffered a degenerative brain disease during their lives, a new study by the Journal of the American Medical Association, JAMA revealed Tuesday.
Of 202 deceased former football players, 177 were diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which can cause a host of mood and behavioral issues as well as thinking and reasoning problems.
Among 111 men who had played in the National Football League, 110 — a whopping 99 percent — had developed the disease, researchers found. Three of 14 high school players also showed signs of the brain disease, as did 48 of 53 college players.
Researchers based their report on brain autopsies of the players and interviewed family members and friends about the symptoms players had experienced.
In 2008, a research team set up a brain bank to study the impact of head blows resulting from contact sports or military service. Jesse Mez, a behavioral neurologist with Boston University School of Medicine and his colleagues classified players as having mild or severe CTE, depending on how widespread the tau clumps were in the players’ brains.
According to Mez, the severity of disease seemed to track with the number of years spent playing football. Among NFL players, 95 of the 110 diagnosed cases were severe. All three of the high school players’ cases were mild, while just over half of the college players’ cases were severe.
Although this doesn't necessarily mean that all football players experience as the sample size of the study wasn't large enough to determine the same, the results are still worrisome, researchers say.