Clinical researchers reported today that postmortem examination of the brain of a recently deceased 18 year old high school football player showed early signs of an incurable debilitating brain disease caused by repetitive head trauma. This finding has major significance in ongoing study of the effects of the sports-related concussion, which threatens athletes from Pop Warner football to the NFL. No scientist had previously documented the degenerative brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in a football player younger than 36.
CTE is caused by multiple head injuries and results in symptoms similar to early-onset Alzheimer’s. Had the 18 year old lived, neurologists say he eventually would have developed early-onset dementia that would have advanced unabated until his death. CTE studies reveal brown tangles flecked throughout the brain tissue. The brain damage affects areas that control emotion, rage, hypersexuality, and even breathing. CTE is a progressive disease that eventually kills brain cells.
The New York Times ran a series of articles last year on CTE in retired NFL players. A confirmed feature of CTE is that years after a NFL player leaves football, the disease begins affecting his personality and behavior. Several former NFL players have recently died disturbing deaths. Houston linebacker John Grimsley, 45, accidentally shot himself; Eagles defensive back Andre Waters, 44, shot himself; and three Steelers, Mike Webster, 50, who died from exposure, Terry Long, 45, suicide by drinking antifreeze, and Jason Strzelczyk, 36, died in a head-on truck crash fleeing from police who were pursuing him after he left the scene of a previous crash.
This latest finding better cause all youth coaches, trainers, and parents to wake up to the very serious dangers from concussions.