Study of retired NFL players finds brain damage

Most Missouri football fans know that the NFL has come under fire in recent years as more and more research uncovers a link between playing the game and developing the serious progressive brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy. There are no tests that can be done to detect CTE among the living, and the link only began to emerge when pathologists started to look for the condition during autopsies carried out on deceased former players. While the league is now starting to accept the growing body of scientific evidence, a study of 40 retired NFL players indicates that the problem may be far more widespread than even the direst of previous predictions.

The players studied had all retired since 2011 and had played in the NFL for an average of seven years. Researchers performed MRI tests on the retired players and discovered white matter damage 43 percent of the time. White matter performs a vital communication role in the brain, and the damage observed was significant enough to be classified as a traumatic brain injury. The study also discovered that 45 percent of the former players had difficulty remembering and learning. The American Academy of Neurology learned of the results of the study during a meeting held in April in Vancouver.

The NFL’s efforts to protect players from brain injuries has largely centered on reducing concussions, but the study concluded that it was repeated smaller hits rather than a handful of major blows that had damaged the players’ brains. However, the researchers also pointed out that not all players with reduced cognitive function will go on to develop CTE.

Experienced personal injury attorneys will likely be aware that serious brain injuries are often difficult to diagnose. Lawsuits brought on behalf of accident victims who have suffered such an injury may seek compensation for their ongoing medical treatment, and attorneys may call on medical experts to explain to juries the long-term nature of these injuries and the debilitating and lasting impact that they can have.