CTE in NFL Players

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative brain disease found in individuals with a history of repetitive brain trauma.  CTE can only be diagnosed, currently, after death via autopsy.  Doctors will search for clumps of a protein called Tau.  These protein clumps can grow and kill brain cells along the way.  Symptoms of CTE may include aggression, depression, paranoia, memory loss, confusion, and impaired judgement or problem solving.  Currently, the treatment for CTE includes treating the symptoms.   

Ben Roethlisberger. Picture courtesy of Michael Rooney and  www.steelcityhobbies.com .

Ben Roethlisberger. Picture courtesy of Michael Rooney and www.steelcityhobbies.com.


Pittsburgh Steeler Quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, is the latest who does not know what his future in the NFL is after a new study linking CTE in the brains of NFL players.  Roethlisberger spoke with the Tribune-Review and stated “I want to play catch with my kids. I want to know my kids' names. As much as I want my kids to remember what I did and watch me play the game, I also want to remember them when I'm 70 years old.”


This happened a year and half after AJ Tarpley, an outside linebacker with the Buffalo Bills, quit after one season because of CTE fears.  He wrote on Instagram "After months of introspection, I am retiring from football. I suffered the third and fourth concussions of my career this past season and I am walking away from the game I love to preserve my future health.”


Just last week, Baltimore Raven’s lineman John Urschel has also walked away from the game citing CTE concerns.  On Twitter, Urschel reports “It wasn't an easy decision, but I believe it was the right one for me.  There's no big story here, and I'd appreciate the right to privacy.”  He will be pursuing a doctorate in Mathematic at MIT following his NFL career and expecting his first child in December.


On July 25th, the Journal of the American Medical Association released an article titled “Clinicopathological Evaluation of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in Players of American Football” by Jesse Mez, MD, MS; et all.  In a sample of 202 deceased players of American football, CTE was diagnosed in 177 players from all levels of play (pee-wee to professional), with 110 of 111 former National Football League players being diagnosed. 

ESPN reports this week, that the NFL and the National Institute of Health (NIH) have parted ways with 16 million dollars left unspent on concussion research.  According to ESPN, the NFL had veto rights on how the money would be used.  The NIH will continue to fund concussion research and stated “If [the] NFL wishes to continue to support research at NIH, a simple donation to the NIH Gift Fund to support research on sports medicine would be favorably viewed, as long as the terms provided broad latitude in decisions about specific research programs.”