Football coaches, parents concerned that report links sport with brain disease
Results of a study conducted by Boston University researchers were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Tuesday.
The research was conducted on 202 brains of former football players, donated by their families. It linked the sport with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, a brain disease that has been linked with repeated blows to the head.
“It’s always in the back of your mind and you don't want any kid to get hurt,” Gary Salzillo, who is the president of Johnston Youth Football.
Of the brains studied, 110 of 111 (99 percent) from former National Football League players were diagnosed with CTE.
In addition, the disease was found in 48 of 53 college players (91 percent) and three of 14 high school players (21 percent).
"It does worry you. It is in the back of your head," said parent, Aris Vasquez.
Severe cases of CTE have been linked with mood disorders and symptoms of dementia.
Doctors said the results of the study are somewhat skewed because the families participating in it suspected their loved one had CTE.
"This is very compelling and somewhat scary, but I think it's a misinterpretation to think for the public that if you hit your head a couple times you're going to be at risk for developing early dementia and suicidality," Dr. Mark Greve, a clinical associate professor of emergency medicine at Brown University.
The report doesn't confirm CTE is common in all football players.
Researchers said it's also unclear how common the disease is in the general population, so more testing is needed. But currently CTE can only be officially diagnosed with an examination of the brain after someone has died.