A top health official with the National Football League (NFL) admitted to a link between playing football and the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) - for the first time ever.
Jeff Miller, the NFL's executive vice president of health and safety policy, told a roundtable consisting of the US House of Representatives' Committee on Energy & Commerce, “the answer to that question is certainly yes” when asked if there is a link.
CTE is a result of repeated head trauma, which causes a buildup of abnormal proteins called tau in the brain. This can result in memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression and even dementia.
CTE was diagnosed in 87 out of 91 former NFL players who donated their brains after death last fall. News like that along with a growing library of studies that point to CTE in football players, hockey players, wrestlers and even American troops.
Just under a quarter of a million American troops had a traumatic brain injury (TBI) while in service and are at risk to develop CTE, according to Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center.
"Concussions can result in a variety of symptoms such as a brief loss of consciousness, headache, nausea/vomiting, dizziness, vision changes, light/sound sensitivity, loss of balance, mood/personality changes, poor concentration or mental slowness, lethargy and changes in sleep patterns," Mark Barisa, a board-certified neuropsychologist, said.
Today, CTE can only be diagnosed post-mortem, which has prompted some athletes, like soccer legend Brandi Chastain, to donate their brain to research. Chastain is one of the first female athletes to make the pledge, joining a number of athletes from various contact sports.
An advanced stage of CTE was found in Tyler Sash, a former New York Giants player, who died at the age of just 27 last September to a drug overdose.The severity of the CTE in Sash’s brain was almost on par with that of former NFL star linebacker Junior Seau. Seau committed suicide in 2012 at the age of 43.
CTE has become a more apparent issue not just for the NFL, but for the world. Now that the NFL has admitted what some had thought to be true for some time, collaboration to find a cure or a way to diagnose the disorder while a patient is still living can begin.