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Study finds connection between football and brain disease

Newly-released research completed on the donated brains of former National Football League (NFL) players has confirmed what was previously suspected: A career full of repeated head trauma can lead to brain disease.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative brain disease that's sometimes mistaken for Alzheimer's. Like Alzheimer's, CTE is an insidious disease that robs its victims of memory, and causes confusion, anxiety and depression. Victims sometimes develop impaired judgment and lose their impulse control. Some become violent, while others become suicidal.

The connection between head trauma in sports and CTE was arguably strong already, although it wasn't officially recognized by the NFL until 2016, but this study reveals a grim reality facing many older players: 99 percent are likely to develop the disease before they die if they suffered multiple concussions during their careers.

The study also revealed some new information that scientists and doctors didn't have before.

When researchers divided the subjects of the studies into four distinct groups based on the severity of the CTE evident in their brains, those with the mildest forms of the disease were far more likely to experience mood swings and behavioral issues. Those with the severe forms of the disease, in contrast, were more likely to fall into a deep depression and commit suicide.

There's already a class-action lawsuit pending that will help provide health benefits and income to former players suspected of having CTE -- but the sports industry as a whole is taking note and trying to find ways to prevent players from developing the disease in the first place. It's important to understand that CTE isn't confined to the big league players -- high school and college athletes may also experience the same sort of trauma. They're put further at risk when coaches don't step in and stop them from returning to the field after a head injury without appropriate healing time -- or, worse, encourage them to get back on the field and play through their pain.

If you're a former athlete who is developing symptoms of a brain disorder, it's important to explore the possibility of CTE. Early intervention can help slow the disease's progression. In addition, consider talking to an attorney who handles brain injury cases about the possibility of seeking long-term compensation to provide for your care and your family's future.

Source: CNN Health, "CTE found in 99% of studied brains from deceased NFL players," Daniella Emanual, July 25, 2017

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