How a new study of head impacts could change the sport of football

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Head to head blows are common in the sport of football. Now, the results of the largest study examining brains of former players are in; and the findings could change the game.

Published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, the focus is CTE.

“It stands for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. It is a neurodegenerative or brain degeneration process that comes from the exposure to repeated traumas,” says neurosurgeon Dr. Jason Gerrard.

Researchers finding — CTE in 110 of 111 in the brains of former National Football League players.Related Content: CTE found in 99% of studied brains from deceased NFL players

Dr. Gerrard is Director of Neurotrauma at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

“I would say that in the field, that many of us probably were not too surprised by the results.”

Dr. Gerrard said that the authors of the study do point out that there was bias in the research.

“They didn’t have a control group if you will, everybody in this study was someone who had played football and was concerned about maybe having CTE.”

Dr. Gerrard says it does confirm what has been suspected for some time now, that exposure to repeated traumas has a significant impact on the brain. The outcome he says provides a baseline on understanding how to better improve equipment and current safety protocols.

Also, raising that symptoms associated with it, ranging from mood to behavioral disorders are treatable.

“If players recognize that one of these problems exist hopefully they’ll seek help for that rather than say I have CTE this is an untreatable process.”

He stresses, “Short of not playing football, obviously that’s always a good option, I think that the important thing is that this type of research is being publicized and people are understanding — hopefully going into what they are going to do, understanding the risks that are out there.”

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