At least 10% of former NFL players have CTE according to new calculations
The bombshell report last year that 110 of 111 brains of deceased NFL players showed tell-tale signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy caused many to reconsider just how safe their favorite sport is. However, another contingent of skeptics and football die-hards questioned the validity of the study for a simple reason.
Nearly all of the brains came from athletes who were suspected of having the condition before their death and pledged their brains to research. This increases the likelihood of actually finding the condition significantly and makes it difficult to discern just how prevalent CTE is in the NFL as a whole.
Now, researchers at NYU Langone and Emory University say they have calculated the widespread risk of CTE in the NFL. While it isn’t as high as the 99% chance suggested by the past study, the findings suggest CTE is still frighteningly common.
Based on their calculations, sports safety researcher Kathleen Bachynski and epidemiologist Zachary Binney say at least 10% of NFL players would develop CTE at some point during their lives.
“I think this is information that both NFL players and their loved ones deserve to know regarding the potential long-term risks of the sport,” Bachynski told reporters.
In the study, the researchers calculated the risk based on a range of possibilities, including the far-fetched chance that the past study identified every single brain with CTE of a former player who died during the 2008 to 2016 duration of the study. They then compared that number against the total of 1142 NFL athletes who died during that period, which would indicate a minimum of 10% of the athletes had CTE.
If just half of the deceased players with CTE donated their brains in that time span, it would raise the rate to 19.3%.
“It’s pretty reasonable to think that the prevalence of CTE might even be higher than one in five,” Bachynski said. “And given that CTE doesn’t even encompass the full range of brain damage and other degenerative diseases associated with repetitive brain trauma … this doesn’t even represent the full scope of the risks to the brain that NFL players need to be aware of.”
Jesse Mez, one of the lead authors of the first study which found 110 athletes had CTE told Laboratory Equipment that the new research is an important continuation of his work.
“It starts to provide a framework or a ballpark for what the prevalence of the disease among NFL players might be,” he said.