Tag Archive: cte study


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Medical investigators who examined the brain of disgraced New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez said the NFL star had Stage 3 Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).  Researchers said that Hernandez had the most severe case of the brain injury anyone had ever seen in someone so young.  Hernandez hanged himself last April at the age of 27, in a prison cell while serving a life sentence for the murder of Odin Lloyd.  A posthumous examination of his brain showed he had such a severe form of the degenerative brain disease CTE that the damage was akin to that of players well into their 60s.

CTE, which is caused by repetitive head trauma, has been linked to memory loss, depression, dementia, mood swings as well as problems with controlling impulsivity and aggression. A study released in July in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that of 111 NFL players whose brains were studied, 110 of them had signs of CTE.

The study was conducted by Boston University researcher Dr. Ann McKee who examined the brains of 202 deceased high school, college and professional football players, finding CTE in 177 of the 202 brains.  The study examined players as young as 23 years old and as old as 89. The brains were also from all player positions including 44 linemen, 10 linebackers, 17 defensive backs and seven quarterbacks.  Dr. McKee said her study showed that it is no longer debatable whether or not there is a problem in football—there is a problem.

The results of the study of Mr. Hernandez’s brain only add to the NFL’s public relations problems regarding CTE.  The league has already faced backlash after other high-profile players were found to have C.T.E., including Junior Seau, Ken Stabler and Frank Gifford.  Mr. Seau — along with Dave Duerson, Andre Waters and Ray Easterling, among others — killed himself.  The release of the Journal of the American Medical Association study and now the recent findings regarding Hernandez only reignite backlash.

Though researchers did not make a direct link between Mr. Hernandez’s violence and his disease-the symptoms of the disease could explain or even have caused the decisions that led to his rise and fall. After the results of the study were made public, Hernandez’s estate filed a federal lawsuit against the N.F.L. and the New England Patriots seeking damages to compensate his 4-year-old daughter for the loss of her father. The suit alleges that the league and the team knew that repeated head hits could lead to the brain disease, yet did not do enough to protect Mr. Hernandez from those hits.

The Hernandez’s family lawyer, Jose Baez, said the family was also contemplating suing the N.C.A.A. and the University of Florida, where Mr. Hernandez played before playing for the Patriots.  The N.F.L. did not comment on the medical finding and declined to comment on the suit. The New England Patriots also declined to comment.

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Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel has retired from the NFL just before the first full-team practice of training camp.  His decision  came two days after a medical study indicated that chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) was found in nearly 99 percent of deceased NFL players’ brains that were donated to scientific research.  A team source said that the findings weighed heavy on Urschel’s decision to retire.

The study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that of the 111 NFL players whose brains were studied, 110 of them had signs of CTE, which can lead to memory loss, depression and dementia—often years or even decades after players retire.  Several top names in the game- including Junior Seau, Frank Gifford, John Mackey and Kenny Stabler — were diagnosed with the disease after their deaths.

Coach John Harbaugh said he was surprised when Urschel called him 90 minutes before practice to inform him of his retirement.  “He said he’s going to retire from football, that it was something that’s been on his mind for quite a while and throughout the offseason.”

In August 2015, Urschel suffered a concussion in a helmet-to-helmet collision, which he said “I think it hurt my ability to think well mathematically,” Urschel said. “It took me about three weeks before I was football-ready. It took me a little bit longer before my high-level visualizations ability came back.”

Urschel will now pursue his PhD in Mathematics fulltime at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, focusing on spectral graph theory, numerical linear algebra and machine learning.  He had been pursuing it in the offseason prior to his retirement.  Urschel was recently named to Forbes’ “30 under 30” in the field of science. He has published six peer-reviewed mathematics papers to date and has three more ready for review.  According to the Ravens website, Urschel is an expert mathematician who gets straight A’s while also grinding away in the NFL trenches.

Urschel who played on the offensive line for three seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, received a $144,560 signing bonus when joining the Ravens in 2014. The bonus prorated at $36,140 per year. With one year left on the contract, Urschel owes the Ravens $36,140 upon retirement.

Urschel released a statement shortly after the announcement.  “Thank you to everyone for the kind words today. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I believe it was the right one for me,” Urschel said in a statement. “There’s no big story here, and I’d appreciate the right to privacy. I’m extremely grateful to the Ravens, and blessed to have been able to play the game I love at the highest level.

It is a great game. There are some games — like the playoff game at Pittsburgh — that I will never forget. I’m excited to start working on my doctorate in mathematics full time at MIT. I’m looking forward to the chance to take courses that are only offered in the fall semester, while spending time with my fiance and preparing myself for the new challenges that will come with fatherhood. We’re expecting our first child in December.”