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A study finds brain injuries in 99% of NFL ex-players

The broader investigation into the consequences of American football stirs the debate on the safety of this sport

The growing consensus on long-term neurological damage produced by football has found a new foothold on Tuesday. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has found brain injuries in 110 of 111 brains donated by ex- NFL players, the American professional league. Although the conclusions can not be extrapolated to all those who practice the most popular sport in the United States, this is the largest sample studied to date.


The condition known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative condition related to head bumps. In Spanish is also known as dementia of the fighter, because it began to study like a consequence of the boxing. The discussion about its direct relationship with the practice of football began a little more than a decade ago after the study of ex-jug adores with mental problems after his retirement. The consequences can appear years after the blows.

In all, the study examined 202 brains of deceased people who played in some category of American football, from high school to the NFL, after the 1960s. The CTE is present in 87% of them, 177. They reached professionals, the proportion exceeds 99%. In some cases, researchers had only the brain. In the most recent, they also had interviews about the general behavior of the person and other experiences with possible traumatic consequences, such as having been in the Army.

The study found signs of CTE in 21% of the 14 that had played in the institute, 91% of the 54 that had played at the university, 64% of a sample of 14 that had played semiprofessional and 7 of the 8 Who had played in the Canadian league.

The new study published Tuesday was conducted by researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Veterans’ Hospital. This is the largest sample studied to date. The brains studied are deposited in a brain bank of Boston that manage these two entities and was created in 2008 to study this question.

The study warns that this is one of the reasons why it can not be concluded with absolute certainty that playing football is directly related to the CTE. The brains studied are from people who donated them to science, precisely because they suspected that something was wrong, which makes the sample deviated. Also, the disease can only be safely certified in a postmortem examination. The study authors can not extrapolate their findings to all American football players.

The report’s conclusion is limited to saying that “in a sample of deceased football players who donated their brains for research, a high proportion had neuropathological evidence of CTE, suggesting that CTE may be related to participation in the football.”

The NFL is in preseason these days and about to start the competition. The National Football League fled the debate over the CTE for years until, for the first time, an organization executive admitted the relationship between gambling and illness when asked directly during a congressional hearing. The debate reached its highest level of visibility with the film Concussion ( 2015 Truth Hurts ) about the doctor who diagnosed the relationship between the disease and the most popular sport in the United States. That same year, the NFL agreed in a collective suit of thousands of ex-jug adores by which it committed to pay five million dollars to each player retired with serious neurological sequels.

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