According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, athletes who are repeatedly exposed to concussions are at high risk for acquiring the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) later in life. The disease leads to memory loss, confusion, depression, suicidal tendencies and progressively worse dementia.
To investigate this theory, researchers examined the brains of former football players that had a history of repeat concussions. Before this study, CTE could not be diagnosed while someone was still alive. To get around this setback, researchers found a way to scan and image the brain of former football players.
After conducting scans on former players, the researchers found similarities in the brains of football players and people with Alzheimer’s disease.
How Can Concussions and CTE Affect Football Players?
In 2013, 29-year-old San Diego Chargers defensive back Paul Oliver committed suicide. Since 2010, nine active and retired football players have killed themselves. All of the deceased football players had been diagnosed with CTE after death. Although CTE normally affects people later in life, ages of the deceased players ranged from the 25 to 62.
The NFL has been the target of a large class action lawsuit, with former players coming forward to discuss the long-term effects of their concussions. Litigation and a desire to protect athletes have caused football associations and school athletic departments to look for ways to prevent and help treat players with concussions.
To help reduce the chances that younger athletes will be affected by concussions, California passed a law limiting practices with full-on tackling. California has become the 20th state to restrict the number of football practices with collisions between players.
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