More than nine in 10 former NFL players' brains studied at Boston University found to have CTE

David Matthews, New York Daily News on

Published in Football

More than nine in 10 brains of former NFL players examined by Boston University researchers had the harmful brain condition known as CTE, the scientists said this week.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a disease caused by repeated head impacts — like the ones football players experience throughout a game, season and career. It can cause memory loss, personality changes and erratic behavior among other symptoms.

CTE can only be diagnosed after death.

“We have 376 NFL players in the bank and we found CTE in 345, roughly 91.7 percent of them,” Dr. Ann McKee, director of the Boston University CTE Center, said. “To me, this is an unacceptably high risk and it cries out for something to be done.”

McKee pointed out that this did not mean 92% of current and former NFL players have or will have CTE, since the Center relies on donations — many from former players who suspect they have the disease before they die.


A 2018 study of 164 brains from the general population found that only one of the samples had CTE — a former college football player’s.

“[The players] feel invincible, at the top of the game, and I understand that and the power that must hold over them,” McKee said. “But they are just unfortunately not living with the real risks of the disease. It makes me sad.”

The doctor said that former players experiencing symptoms should still seek treatment.

“Your symptoms, whether or not they are related to CTE, likely can be treated, and you should seek medical care. Our clinical team has had success treating former football players with mid-life mental health and other symptoms.”

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