Report: 87 Deceased NFL Players Test Positive for CTE

Report: 87 Deceased NFL Players Test Positive for CTE

The long-term brain disease continues to cast dark cloud over league.

Published September 18, 2015

The effects that concussions and head trauma have on NFL players well after their careers are over continue to be a growing concern the more we learn about it.

A new report by PBS Frontline says that 87 of 91 deceased NFL players tested positive for the brain disease CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), which stems from repetitive concussions and head trauma from their playing days.

Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University researchers said that in addition, 131 of 165 deceased football players (who played in high school, college, semi-pro and professionally) also had CTE in their brain tissue after their deaths.

Although CTE can only be detected posthumously, Dr. Ann McKee, director and chief of neuropathology at the VA Boston Healthcare System, said the new 96 percent statistic is "remarkably consistent" to past research linking football and the brain disease.

“People think that we’re blowing this out of proportion, that this is a very rare disease and that we’re sensationalizing it,” McKee told Frontline. “My response is that where I sit, this is a very real disease. We have had no problem identifying it in hundreds of players.”

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In April, the NFL agreed to pay 5,000 retired/deceased players and their families who sued the league over concussions and repetitive head trauma a total of $1 billion.

An NFL spokesperson added: “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.”

Frontline's continued reporting is shining a spotlight onto CTE and the NFL and forcing Hollywood to explore the topic. Will Smith will star in the film Concussion, which is set to hit the big screen this December. Smith plays Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist who first pinpointed CTE in late Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster.

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(Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Written by Mark Lelinwalla

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