Experts Say Football Players Brains Study Shouldn't Alarm All

Jul 31, 2017

A majority of former football players suffer from a degenerative brain condition. That’s according to a new study in the Journal of American Medicine. The condition is linked to concussions, but Indiana experts say it shouldn’t be cause for concern for all players.

Indiana University Health psychiatrist and neuroscience expert Thomas McAllister says the condition chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE is a type of dementia.

“And it’s been linked to people with certain head injuries,” says McAllister

Injuries including those sustained by football players. A new study examined 200 donated brains of former players, and 87 percent of them showed signs of CTE.

Most of the players, though, were older. And neurosurgeon Terry Horner, who consults for the Colts and IU, says concussion awareness has come a long way.

“We’ve learned a lot about concussion in the last 10-15 years before that time we weren’t treating players at all, we didn’t know what to do with them,” Horner says.

Horner says a study like this shouldn’t discourage children from playing football, which can provide much needed exercise.

“We wouldn’t want to trade one thing that is not as prevalent, like concussion for a huge epidemic of obesity and diabetes in our kids,” says Horner.

McAllister says the study also dealt with long-term concussion exposure which is more worrisome.

“If you have one concussion it seems you may be at higher risk for subsequent concussions,” McAllister says, “And then over time it seems to take less of an impact to create more symptoms.”

Indiana passed a concussion bill three years ago to protect young players from head injuries.