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Study finds 96 percent of ex-NFL players examined died with CTE

Sporting News logo Sporting News 9/18/2015 Steven Gaither, Sporting News

Football’s CTE problem may be bigger than anyone thought.

Researchers at the Department of Affairs and Boston University tell PBS's Frontline that they found that 96 percent of the deceased NFL players and 79 percent of all football players they studied exhibited chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive degenerative disease of the brain.

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Only four of the 91 deceased former NFL players didn’t test positive for the brain disease, which can only be diagnosed posthumously and is attributed to repetitive brain trauma, including concussions as well as blows to the head that don't necessarily result in concussions.

“People think that we’re blowing this out of proportion, that this is a very rare disease and that we’re sensationalizing it,” Dr. Ann McKee, director of the facility that conducted the research, told Frontline.  “My response is that where I sit, this is a very real disease. We have had no problem identifying it in hundreds of players.”

The study examined brain tissue of 165 individuals who played football in high school or college as well as at the professional and semi-pro levels. Forty percent of those who tested positive were offensive and defensive linemen, Frontline reported.

McKee says people with a vested interest in football continue to debate whether CTE is a real disease.

“People want to make this just Alzheimer’s disease or aging and not really a disease,” McKee said. “I think there’s fewer of those people, but that’s still one of our major hurdles.”


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