The NFL is the safest it's been in years, and the brutal hits that were so common just a few seasons ago are now a thing of the past. At least, that's what Roger Goodell and the NFL will tell you—despite the fact that players like Chris Borland are retiring at a young age to preserve their health. But according to a report released by the PBS show Frontline today, the NFL's push for player safety isn't going to do much to ease the minds of those former players who have played in the NFL and at other levels of football.
Frontline is reporting that researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University have now studied the brains of 91 former NFL players. They have found that, out of these 91 former players, 87 tested positive for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a disease that is reportedly caused by repetitive trauma to the head. That means that 96 percent of those NFL players tested had CTE at the time of their death. And as if that wasn't bad enough, Boston University has actually studied 165 former football players total, including many who only played through high school and college. Of those 165 people, 131 tested positive for CTE, which means that it's not just NFL players who have suffered from the disease.
It is worth pointing out that, because it's impossible to diagnose CTE in a living person, many of those players who agreed to donate their brains to research did so because they believed they were living with CTE. So it's not entirely surprising to hear that many of these players were correct in thinking that they had symptoms of CTE when they were alive. But the fact that so many of them were correct (again, 96 percent!) is obviously problematic and shines a light back on how football has caused severe brain injuries in many former players.
An NFL spokesman responded to the Frontline report by saying: "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."
That response doesn't seem to make many former players feel any better about their current predicament, though. Former NFL tight end Tom Crabtree posted this on Twitter a short time after the Frontline report was released:
Stay tuned for further reactions and developments.
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