Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a neurodegenerative brain disease that can result from repeated hits to the head. The repeated blows shake the brain and cause the buildup of tau proteins, which hold together microtubules in the brain cell’s transport system.
Tau protein buildup can gradually disable neuro-pathways and can cause memory loss, dementia and ultimately kill brain cells over time.
The brains of 99% of NFL players in the study were diagnosed with CTE while 91% of college football players had the same disease. Of the total 202 players studied, 87% were found to have CTE. The study was published in medical journal JAMA on Tuesday.
The NFL issued a statement in response to the study: “The NFL is committed to supporting scientific research into CTE and advancing progress in the prevention and treatment of head injuries.”
The NFL acknowledged the connection between CTE and football for the first time in 2016. In 2015, a federal judge approved a $1 billion settlement between the NFL and thousands of ex-players in a brain damage class-action lawsuit.