Study Finds 76 Out of 79 Deceased Former NFL Football Players Suffered Traumatic Brain Injury
The National Football League recently agreed to a large settlement with several former league players who suffered traumatic brain injury, untreated, during their time playing professional football. Many of those players now suffer chronic traumatic encephalopathy, depression and suicidal thoughts, anger management and other emotional issues, and physical ailments related to brain changes.
But that isn’t the end of the story for the NFL’s problems with players who suffered traumatic brain injury. Researchers at the Department of Veterans Affairs brain repository in Bedford, MA, posthumously examined the brain tissue of 128 football players who, before they died, played professionally, semi-professionally, in college, or in high school. In the sample, 101 of those brains – around 80% – tested positive for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, which is the result of repeated untreated concussions and traumatic brain injury.
The researchers noted that the study may be skewed. The only way to positively identify CTE is to examine the brain after death, and many of the players who agreed to donate their brains to science after their deaths suspected they may have CTE.
“Obviously this high percentage of living individuals is not suffering from CTE,” said Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist who directs the brain bank as part of a collaboration between the VA and Boston University’s CTE Center. But “playing football, and the higher the level you play football and the longer you play football, the higher your risk.”
Traumatic brain injury has come to the forefront with the NFL again after a recent media storm around domestic abuse. Several players have gone to court on charges that they physically, verbally, and emotionally abused their partners or children. Some doctors now suggest that personality changes related to CTE or traumatic brain injury could have led some of those players to commit severe domestic abuse.
For example, in 2012, Jovan Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend, then killed himself. A year later, as part of a lawsuit filing, Belcher’s body was exhumed and his brain studied. Although the tissue was in a state of “severe decomposition,” doctors were able to diagnose Belcher with CTE.
”You can’t say those brown spots on Jovan Belcher’s brain caused him to do what he did,” says Dr. Julian Bailes, chairman of the department of neurosurgery at the NorthShore University HealthSystem outside of Chicago, who has extensively studied football brain injuries. “But are those brown spots tell-tale signs of a brain injury that influences behavior? With every case like this, we keep upping the ante.”
Now that the NFL has settled the traumatic brain injury class action lawsuit with former players, hopefully changes will come to the league’s policies. Bullying players to get back on the field must cease, and the NFL must provide up-to-date helmets and padding to help prevent concussions as much as possible, and provide medical care and time off for players who suffered traumatic brain injury.
The Concussion and Traumatic Brain Injury Attorneys at the Strom Law Firm
If you or a loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury due to a concussion after an automobile accident or injury from a defective product, it is not too late to get help. The attorneys at the Strom Law Firm offer free consultations to discuss the incident that led to traumatic brain injury and determine if you have a personal injury case. Contact us today. 803.252.4800.