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NFL Brain Bank to Undergo Largest Study Ever for CTE
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated blows to the head. It was commonly found in boxers starting in the 1920s. Now, the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy will study the brains of 100 living patients to determine if CTE can be diagnosed before death.
Right now, the only way to determine if someone has CTE is by taking a sample of a brain and examining it under a microscope. Recent deaths such as Dave Duerson of the Chicago Bears and Rick Martin of the NHL have led to the larger study.
Boston University will study and scan the brains of 100 retired NFL players. They will also do genetic testing, interviewing and do a thorough examination over three years of all study participants. For a comparison group, the scientists will use athletes in non-contact sports such as runners, swimmers, tennis players and basketball stars.
All of the subjects will be between 40 and 69 years old. The 100 NFL players have all showed signs of increasing dementia that could be a sign of CTE. The athletes from other sports are also elite in their fields and were active in their sports for many years.
Before studying these 100 brains, Boston University only had about 70 to rely on and they were all from players who had passed away. This new endeavor will be the largest and most comprehensive of its kind.
The NFL players to be studied all played on defense, the side of the ball that required the most blows to the head. The NFL is helping Boston University contact former players. Another study being conducted involves interviewing former players to keep up on their condition from all sports.
The aim of the study is to try to better understand CTE and eventually will lead to a possible treatment for the disease. The brain slowly degenerates over many years due to repeated blows to the head. The condition is common in boxing, football and hockey.
Concussions and blows to the head have made news in the NFL this year. Former players filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles alleging the league hid the dangers of concussions and hid it from players for decades. The NFL commissioned its own study in the 1990s which concluded there was no danger. It wasn't until June 2010 that the NFL admitted concussions and dementia are a regular part of the NFL experience.
This new effort to find a treatment for CTE is funded in part by the National Institutes of Health and other agencies in the federal government. Boston University is a leading authority on CTE and is responsible for housing the NFL's brain bank.
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