Study: 87 of 91 former NFL players test positive for rare brain disease

A new study conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University found that 87 of 91 former NFL players tested positive for a rare brain disease that may be linked to traumatic head injury.

The study identified chronic traumatic encephalopathy, known more commonly as CTE, in 96 percent of NFL players tested and in 79 percent of those tested who had played some form of football, from high school through professional leagues.

The study was conducted on brains of deceased football players that had been donated to a brain bank, which studies head injuries in professional athletes.

According to Frontline, 40 percent of those players who tested positive for CTE were offensive and defensive linemen who face direct physical contact on every play. Frontline reports that this finding supports previous research that suggests suffering minor head trauma on a regular basis may be worse than the more forceful collisions that cause concussions.

Critics point out that because the brains were donated by former football players for brain disease research, many likely suspected having a brain issue. If true, this would create a skewed study group.

The NFL released a statement to Frontline about the study’s findings.

“We are dedicated to making football safer and continue to take steps to protect players, including rule changes, advanced sideline technology, and expanded medical resources. We continue to make significant investments in independent research through our gifts to Boston University, the [National Institutes of Health] and other efforts to accelerate the science and understanding of these issues.”