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Study: Some military, NFL and high school football athletes' head trauma linked to brain disease

Published: Saturday, Aug. 1 2015 6:18 p.m. MDT

In August 2012, these are new football helmets that were given to a group of youth football players from the Akron Parents Pee Wee Football League in Akron, Ohio. As a result of player's getting hurt, these helmets, partially sponsored by the NFL were given to thousands nationwide to improve player safety. (Gene J. Puskar, AP) In August 2012, these are new football helmets that were given to a group of youth football players from the Akron Parents Pee Wee Football League in Akron, Ohio. As a result of player's getting hurt, these helmets, partially sponsored by the NFL were given to thousands nationwide to improve player safety. (Gene J. Puskar, AP)

Former NFL players may have received more leverage in their lawsuit against the National Football League for allegedly hiding information that linked sport-related head injuries to brain damage, the Boston Globe reported this week.

The athletes filed a lawsuit last spring.

Researchers were able to study 85 donated brains. Of those, 33 belonged to former NFL players and 21 came from veterans who were also athletes. The brains ranged from 17- to 98-year-olds, according to The New York Times.

"Of the group of 85 people, 80 percent (69 men) — nearly all of whom played sports — showed evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative and incurable disease whose symptoms can include memory loss, depression and dementia," Ken Belson wrote at The New York Times.

According to Veterans United, about 230,000 soldiers who were deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan are reported to have brain trauma.

Concerns reach adults, but also extend to younger athletes, too.

Deborah Kotz of The Boston Globe reported on two high school football players who died in their teens from brain damage linked to head injuries. She also reported five concussions in 10- to 12-year-olds after the youth played in a football game in Central Massachusetts.

Diagnosis are still not available for the living, but the researched deceased brains were able to bring to light more information on CTE's progression, Reuters reported.

"The research found CTE was closely linked to the number of years an athlete played football, but not directly tied to the number of concussions sustained," reporter Scott Malone wrote.

Robert Stern, a Boston University professor and co-author of the study, told Malone that "a stead diet of mild hits to the head" result in CTE, instead of traumatic injuries.

Some neurologists, such as Peter Warinner, are still skeptics. Warinner is the director of sports neurology at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and told the Boston Globe that while everyone agrees that CTE is a real brain condition, not everyone agrees on whether multiple concussions cause the emergence of it.

This newest CTE study has concluded that there are four stages of the disease that begin years after head trauma.

"It starts with headaches and problems with concentration in the early stages, followed by depression, aggression, explosive anger and short-term memory loss," Kotz wrote. "Then comes more serious cognitive impairment, and eventually full-blown dementia where a person doesn't recognize loved ones."

Email: ehong@desnews.com Twitter: @erinhong

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