Is Brain Damage Common In NFL Players?

Armen Hareyan's picture

The debate about head injuries in pro football players has intensified with the revelation Tuesday that a sixth deceased former National Football League player age 50 or younger had brain damage commonly associated with boxers.

A condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) was found in the brain of Tom McHale, an NFL lineman from 1987 to 1995. He was 45 when he died in May 2008. Tests on McHale's brain were conducted by doctors at Boston University's School of Medicine, The New York Times reported.


CTE, a progressive condition that results from repetitive head traumas, can cause dementia in people in their 40s or 50s. CTE has been identified in all six NFL veterans who died between the ages of 36 and 50 and were tested for the condition, the newspaper said.

"This is a medically significant finding," Dr. Daniel P. Perl, director of neuropathology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, told the Times. "I think with a sixth case identified, out of six, for a condition that is incredibly rare in the general population, there is more than enough evidence that football is clearly strongly related to the presence of this pathology."

However, a neurologist at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York said there's still no firm link between football and CTE.

"I think that there are many questions that still are out there as to whether there is a kind of traumatic encephalopathy associated with football. I think we don't know. I think that there is not enough scientific evidence to say that there is," Dr. Ira Casson, a co-chairman of the NFL committee that has studied concussions since 1994, told the Times.