New CTE Study Alarming But Still Leaves Unanswered Questions

The Journal of the American Medicine Association recently published an alarming study on chronic traumatic encephalopathy that found the disease in 90 percent of the football players’ brains that were studied.

New study on CTE found the disease in NFL, college and high school players.

CTE can only be found after death, and 202 former football players were part of this new study. The findings were scary if taken at face value, with 177 of the 202 former players found to have the disease.

Researchers found it in 110 out of 111 NFL players, 48 of 53 college players, nine out of 14 semi-professional players, seven out of eight CFL players and three out of 14 high-school players. This study included several well-known former NFL players such as Ken Stabler, Bubba Smith, Kevin Turner and Dave Duerson.

While the numbers are troubling, the researchers themselves didn’t want to jump to conclusions, as the study was on brains from former players who showed symptoms of brain injury in life.

The study didn’t contain a comparison group of all players who played college or professional football. Researchers also do not know if some players’ lifestyle choices such as drug and alcohol abuse, and performance-enhancing drugs might factor in.

Genetics and diet might also play apart in players getting CTE, and performance-enhancing drugs could be another factor.

There is still a lot researchers don’t know about how players get CTE. Questions like, “How many years of football lead to CTE?” or “How common is the disease in all football players?”, must be answered.

Just days after the journal released findings of the study, Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel abruptly retired. Urschel is working on his doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He had published six peer-reviewed mathematics papers with three more papers ready to be reviewed. Forbes named the 26-year-old to its “30 under 30” in the field of science in 2017.

In 2015, Urschel was knocked unconscious after a helmet-to-helmet hit that left him with a concussion. He was expected to compete for the Ravens’ starting job as offensive center when the team’s training camp opened on July 29.

The NFL didn’t help its self-image after the new report came out with news that the league and the National Institute for Health are looking to part ways. The end of the partnership could mean the NIH loses $16 million of a $30 million donation from the league.

Both sides ended up in a dispute in 2015 over a major study awarded to a researcher that had been critical of the league, ESPN’s investigation program Outside the Lines said in June.