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The NFL Faces New Problems Linking Football and Serious Head Injuries

The National Football League (NFL) has been struggling with its image for years due to the extensive claims that its players are disproportionately likely to develop the degenerative brain disease linked to repeated head injuries known as chronic traumatic encephalophathy (CTE).

A new study by Dr. Ann McKeen, a neuropathologist and an expert in neurodegenerative disease at Boston University School of Medicine, just made things harder for the NFL.

The Details of the Study

The study, titled “Clinicopathological Evaluation of Chronic Traumatic Encephalophy in Players of American Football,” is based on a “convenience sample of 202 deceased players of American football from a brain donation program. According to the study, 177 players across all levels of play (87%), including 110 of 111 former National Football League players (99%), were neurophathologically diagnosed with CTE.

This was the largest study of its kind. The researchers studied the brains of former athletes who had played football in the NFL, the Canadian Football League or at the college or high school level. The study found signs of CTE in the brains of 91 percent of the 53 former college players and 21 percent of the former high school players.

The criteria for submitting a brain was based on exposure to repetitive head trauma, regardless of whether the individual exhibited symptoms during their lifetime. The study was published on July 25, 2017 in the medical journal JAMA.

What Is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)?

CTE is a neurodegenerative brain disease that can be found in individuals who have been exposed to repeated head injuries. CTE is pathologically marked by a build up of abnormal tau protein that can disable neuropathways and lead to a variety of clinical symptoms. These symptoms include:traumatic brain injury

  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Impaired judgement
  • Aggression
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Impulse control issues
  • Suicidal thoughts and behavior

CTE can only be diagnosed with an autopsy. Most of these cases have been detected in veterans and individuals who have played contact sports, particularly American football.

The Impact of the Study

Growing concerns and the impressive studies done on the long-term impact of playing football have significantly impacted the game of football. The most recent impact was the news of the early retirement of 26 year old Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel, a doctoral candidate in applied mathematics. His abrupt announcement from football came just before the first full-team practice of training camp, and only two days after the publishing of this study.

However, these changes do not impact the retired players who have suffered the consequences. These retired NFL players have to deal with the concussions that they suffered and being at a high risk for a TBI and CTE. A team source confirmed that Urschel’s decision was linked to the results of the study.

Urschel plans on pursuing his doctorate full time in the fall at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The Impact of the Study on the Relationship Between NFL and National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Only days after the study was published, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that it will let its partnership with the NFL expire in August after the NFL previously pledged $30 million to help research the connection between brain disease and football. This decision is more deeply rooted, as the relationship between the NFL and the NIH has reportedly been contentious for years.

A Washington Post article confirmed the severed relationship by reporting that the Democratic members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce submitted a letter to the NFL asking if it planned to fulfill the remaining $18 million of its initial pledge amount.

A May 2016 investigation by the New York Times revealed that the House Committee on Energy and Commerce conducted a study that detailed the NFL’s attempt to influence where its donation was funneled. The committee wrote that the NFL was privately attempting to use its influence to steer funding away from one of its critics.

We Can Help You If Your Are Injured

At Gersowitz Libo & Korek, P.C, our team of personal injury attorneys can assist former NFL players in seeking damages for injuries sustained as a result of the greedy disregard for their long-term health and well being, as well as for preventive care and monitoring.

To schedule a complimentary and confidential consultation with one of our New York NFL injuries attorneys, please call 1-800-529-9997. We do not collect payment unless we recover compensation for you.

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Jeff Korek

Jeff S. Korek

Senior Trial Partner​

Jeff S. Korek joined Gersowitz Libo & Korek, P.C. in 1992 as the Senior Trial partner. Known for his meticulous preparation and dedication to his clients, Jeff has obtained some of the state’s highest verdicts and settlements.