A research conducted on 202 former football players showed evidence of brain disease in nearly all of them, AP reported.
It’s the largest update to chronic traumatic encephalopathy studies, or CTE, on brain disease linked with repeated head blows.The new report was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Many scientists believe that repeated blows to the head increase risks for progressive loss of normal brain matter and an abnormal buildup of a protein called tau. Combat veterans and athletes in rough contact sports like football and boxing are among those thought to be most at risk.
The report, however, doesn’t confirm that the condition is common in all football players; it reflects high occurrence in samples at a Boston brain bank that studies CTE.
“There are many questions that remain unanswered,” said lead author Dr. Ann McKee, a Boston University neuroscientist. “How common is this” in the general population and all football players?
“How many years of football is too many?” and “What is the genetic risk? Some players do not have evidence of this disease despite long playing years,” she noted.
It’s also uncertain if some players’ lifestyle habits, alcohol, drugs, steroids, and diet might somehow contribute, McKee said.
McKee said research from the brain bank may lead to answers and an understanding of how to detect the disease in life, “while there’s still a chance to do something about it.” There’s no known treatment.
Dr. Munro Cullum, a neuropsychologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, emphasized that the report is based on a selective sample of men who were not necessarily representative of all football players. He said problems other than CTE might explain some of their most common symptoms before death are depression, excess impulsivness and behavior changes.
The strongest scientific evidence says CTE can only be diagnosed by examining brains after death, although some researchers are experimenting with tests performed on the living.