CTE can only be formally diagnosed by autopsy.
As a result, the researchers urged caution in interpreting the high frequency of CTE in this study, stressing that estimates of how prevalent CTE may be can not be concluded or implied.
Among the former National Football League players who have either been diagnosed with, or shown symptoms of, CTE are Junior Seau, Harrisburg native Adrian Robinson, Tony Dorsett, Jim McMahon and Frank Gifford. In the brains examined, the largest number of CTE cases were found in linemen, running backs and defensive backs. “And that’s why we really need to understand how much exposure to head trauma and what type of head trauma the body can sustain before it gets into this irreversible cascade of events”. Online questionnaires were also sent to the families of the players and their military and athletic history was evaluated.
Few of those efforts, however, mention the prevalence of CTE in former football players or the dangers that are increasingly associated with the sport. Of those 111, a total of 110 showed signs of CTE. Among the participants who had severe CTE, 85 percent had signs of dementia, nearly 90 percent had behavioral symptoms, and 95 percent had cognitive symptoms. Although tau buildup is found in other brain diseases, like Alzheimer’s, in CTE, the protein congregates in brain cells around small blood vessels.
CTE ranges in severity from mild to severe.
“What I would like to see going forward is comprehensive, collective determination to solve the CTE problem”, said McKee in a statement. “I wouldn’t let any of my relatives play football”.
“There are many questions that remain unanswered”, said lead author Dr. Ann McKee, a Boston University neuroscientist.
Despite the results, medical experts said they still can’t say repeated head injuries cause CTE.
The study examined players as young as 23 years old and as old as 89.
In the Journal of the American Medical Association report, researchers looked at 202 former players at all levels of the game.
The NFL finally acknowledged a link between head blows and brain disease in 2015, and agreed in a $1 billion settlement to compensate former players who had accused the league of hiding the risks.
The disease is likely caused by repeated hits to the head, things like concussions. The actual incidence of the condition is as yet not known.
The disease can only be diagnosed by examining brain tissue after death, but identifying symptoms of survivors can still serve as a determination. 95% had cognitive symptoms, like issues with memory, executive function and attention. There is progression of dementia, irritability, mood swings and suicidal tendencies as well.