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MEDICAL: CONDITIONS: CONCUSSIONS : ORGANIZATIONS: NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE (NFL) : SPORTS: FOOTBALL: PROFESSIONAL: Here's What We Know about Football, Concussions, and the Brain


David P. Dillard
 

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MEDICAL: CONDITIONS: CONCUSSIONS :

ORGANIZATIONS: NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE (NFL) :

SPORTS: FOOTBALL: PROFESSIONAL:

Here's What We Know about Football, Concussions, and the Brain

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Here's What We Know about Football, Concussions, and the Brain

Updated by Joseph Stromberg

September 5, 2014, 9:00 a.m. ET

Vox

http://www.vox.com/2014/9/5/6106851/nfl-football-concussions

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The NFL's concussion crisis has now been going on long enough that it's easy to get lost in it.

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But though the science may be complex, the basic picture is relatively simple.

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In recent years, scientists have discovered that the repeated blows to the head suffered by many football players can cause long-term behavioral changes, dementia, and depression, as part of a disease called CTE. At least 50 deceased players have been diagnosed with CTE so far, and an unknown number are living with it.

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After years of ignoring the issue, the NFL is now trying to do something about it, changing the rules to minimize the most violent blows to the head. But it's unclear whether they'll be able to eliminate CTE from a fundamentally violent game.

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Here's everything you need to know to get up to speed.

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Repeated concussions lead to long-term brain problems a disease called CTE

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Over the past decade or so, several prominent former NFL players have committed suicide after suffering from years of emotional and memory problems. When doctors examined their brains afterward, they found evidence of a long-term disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

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For nearly a century, doctors knew the disease could occur in boxers who were repeatedly punched in the head (they called it "punch drunk"), but awareness that football players were also susceptible came slowly. In 2002, Mike Webster a former Pittsburgh Steelers player who suffered from depression and dementia before dying from a heart attack at age 50 was diagnosed, becoming the first former NFL player confirmed to have it.

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Although the symptoms may appear during a patients lifetime, a definitive diagnosis can only be made after death, when doctors have the chance to examine the brain and look for telltale signs of the disease. In postmortem exams, heavy depositions of a protein called tau in the brain are one sign of CTE.

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snip

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Most players diagnosed with CTE played for many years and suffered multiple concussions, but that's not always the case: in 2010, a 21 year-old University of Pennsylvania football player named Owen Thomas killed himself and was found to have early stages of CTE, making him the one of the youngest cases diagnosed so far.

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Athletes in other sports have also been found to have CTE, including Derek Boogaard, an NHL hockey player with a particularly violent playing style who died from a drug overdose at the age of 28. Some soldiers whove been exposed to explosions and suffered brain trauma have also been found to suffer from it.

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snip

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The league also settled a class-action suit filed by thousands of former players, offering $765 million to compensate those suffering from dementia or depression related to blows to the head. But some players are appealing the settlement, saying they weren't properly represented and there are undue restrictions on retired players seeking compensation under its terms.

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The complete article may be read at the URL above.

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