A new study found 96% of former NFL players had evidence of brain disease

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A Boston University research group that has been studying the link between playing football and brain disease has released more findings, and they are ugly for the sport.

In the latest report published by PBS, Dr. Ann McKee and her group announced that they studied the brains of 91 former NFL players and found evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in 87 (96%) of them. 

Furthermore, of those players found to have evidence of brain disease, 40% were either offensive or defensive linemen. The implication here is that these are the players who are most likely to suffer the most helmet-to-helmet hits due to repeated collisions both in games and in practices.

The group also studied the brains of former players who either played semi-pro, college, or high school football. In the 74 non-NFL football players, 44 (59%) showed evidence of CTE. Overall, the rate of CTE in people who’ve played football studied so far was found to be 79%.

Dr. McKee’s work was at the center of PBS’s documentary "League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis." She was originally inspired by the work of Dr. Bennet Omalu, who had discovered a link between playing football and CTE.

Dr. Omalu’s work is the subject of an upcoming movie, "Concussion," starring Will Smith.

CTE is caused by a buildup of tau in the brain. According to the group, tau (the brown spots in the brain images below) is a protein that "forms around the brain’s blood vessels, interrupting normal functioning and eventually killing nerve cells." It is believe that CTE can be caused by repetitive trauma to the brain.

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We have reached out to the NFL for comment. 

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