Largest CTE Study in Football Players to Date Finds Pathological Diagnosis in 110 out of 111 NFL Players

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The already compelling evidence tying football to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is now even stronger, with the publication of findings from the largest study yet to evaluate the brains of deceased football players. In a continuation of a study from several years ago, investigators neuropathologically diagnosed CTE in 177 of 202 brains of deceased football players.

The study evaluated football players at various levels of play. A diagnosis of CTE was made in zero out of two pre-high school players, three of 14 high school players, 48 of 53 college players, nine of 14 semi-professional players, and 110 of 111 NFL players. Of note, the severity of CTE was associated with the level of play, with all three former high school players having mild pathology compared to a majority of college, semi-professional, and professional players having severe pathology.

Behavioral or mood symptoms were found in 96 percent of mild cases versus 89 percent in severe cases, and cognitive symptoms were found in 85 percent of mild cases versus 95 percent of severe cases. The most significant difference between mild and severe pathologies was signs of dementia, which were found in 33 percent of mild cases versus 85 percent in severe cases.

Reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (2017; 318(4): 360-370), the results were a continuation of a study that began eight years ago. 

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