Football, NFL, and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

Are we playing with the health of our stars?

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Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy and our players

Football is the world’s most famous game. In the FIFA world cup 2018 in Russia, 32 teams played while there are 30 biggest football clubs in the world. However, many countries do not qualify for the world cup, but they have much stronger teams. Apart from these countries, there are football followers worldwide. Therefore, it is truly an international sport that has such a large following and popularity.

Lots of money involved in this sport and players earns very high. They are international stars. However, recent studies have cautioned on a serious issue about football players that are degenerative brain disease in football players. A football player has to smash his head to the moving football with force and it causes serious head injuries in football or soccer.

The Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) has an obvious link with football where a player has to live a life under pressure and continuous competition. We have to go deeper to understand how football players are living their life when they amuse their spectators through their performance.

Traumatic Brain Injury or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

The injury caused by a football to players is named as traumatic brain injury. Studies on former football players have become undeniable evidence that football has a link with the traumatic brain injury. In one of such studies, 111 NFL players were studied, and 110 out of 111 NFL players had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The leading cause of CTE is repetitive head trauma that causes degenerative brain disorder. CTE has many symptoms and it is linked with various diseases like suicidal behavior, dementia, and low level of executive function, mood, and decline in memory.

Football is considered a sport of concussion, and in the United States alone, there are almost 3.8 million sports-related concussions in football every year. Head injuries and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) are not present phenomena among football players, but it existed for a long time. However, it was 2016 when health officials with the NFL acknowledged for the first time that football and CTE had a link.

Prevalence of CTE among Football Players

Sadly, there is rich and undeniable evidence to prove a link between the football game and CTE. In a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association CTE, a large number of deceased NFL players with CTE have been diagnosed. In one of the study samples, the brains of 202 deceased people were examined. Among them, 87 percent of the players had been diagnosed with CTE. This sample consisted of players that played football at any level from high school to the NFL.

In the sample, 111 players played NFL, and CTE found in 99 percent of former NFL players studied. It is an alarming rate and it shows that almost every footballer has the disease at a higher level. NFL poses a challenge and continuous competition to football players. As a result, they had to experience more trauma and pressure and it leads them to experience a higher rate of CTE. Numbers indicating Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) among football players at NFL are alarming and pose a serious threat to their health.

What are Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and Effects?

The above discussion has related the case of CTE with football players. However, one may ask about CTE and its effects on athletes or any other patient. Therefore, this section contains information on CTE to feel the severity of the disease. CTE or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative brain disease, according to the Boston University CTE Center. Let’s take a look at what occurs in the brain as a result of CTE. When a brain is affected by CTE, a protein called Tau starts forming clumps and spreading throughout the brain.

As a physician, I'm somewhat an advocate of patients. How come, before Mike Webster, no NFL player was told or knew that there was an intrinsic risk of brain damage from playing football?

Football, NFL, and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy % Bennet Omalu Nigerian-American Physician

The spread of Tau starts killing brain cells, and it is a known fact that brain cells do not regenerate or reproduce. Unfortunately, CTE may occur at a younger age as 17 but it takes time to appear until the onset of head impacts. Usually, symptoms of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) start occurring in a patient when he is in his late 20s or 30s. The result of the disease is the change in mood and behavior and further changes are in the form of impulse control problems, depression, aggression, and paranoia.

At later stages of the diseases, some patients may experience bigger and more apparent problems with memorizing and thinking. Memory loss, impaired judgment, and confusion led to progressive dementia at the later stages of the disease. When the patient enters his 40s and 50s, cognitive symptoms start appearing. Some patients may experience worsened symptoms even without additional head impacts while other patients experience stability in symptoms before further getting extreme.

One thing gets clear from the discussion on Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) that it is a consistent disease that increases gradually and continuously. There is no reverse in the disease because it gets more extreme and intense with the passage of time.

NFL and Other Football Players have to be cautious

The studies on deceased NFL and football players have shown that they had CTE. Living former NFL players have also had the disease. The Positron emission tomography scans have made it all clear that football players have the disease. There are symptoms of CTE in veterans. It is a dangerous situation, especially when the NFL and football is the world’s most favorite game.

Football is the most popular sport in America, as well. A large sum of money is involved in this sport and players get huge money for their play. Sponsorships in football and business stakes are also higher. This might be the reason why the NFL took much time to admit that football had a link with CTE.

However, now when the world has embraced and admitted the fact, football players have to be cautious. Medical researchers and sports analysts have to think about ways how to protect football players from head injuries. A problem has been diagnosed and now, the time is to prevent the loss from occurring. We are not ready to sacrifice the health of our players for the sake of a game. We have to protect both i.e. players and football.

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