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N.F.L. Changes Its Attitude Toward Brain Injuries, Pledges Money to Research Organization

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The National Football League has long denied the growing body of evidence that shows that playing the game leads to concussions that contribute to longer-term effects reminiscent of dementia. In fact, the disease termed Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), can cause confusion, aggression, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Researchers at The Center for the Study of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy are responsible for most of the findings. For example, Dr. Anne McKee and her colleagues at the Center performed autopsies on six deceased professional football players that died as a result of suicide and found that each of the players, each aged between 25 and 50, exhibited evidence of severe brain damage. Overall, the Center focuses on receiving "brain donations" from current and former athletes in various sports, so that the researchers can study the brains after the athletes’ deaths. More than 110 athletes have registered their brains just this year, with 50 of those being ex-N.F.L. players who suffer from the typical symptoms of CTE.

Recently, the N.F.L.’s two head scientists on the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury committee, the league’s medical research group, resigned after much criticism from the scientific community. Specifically, the league and its committee routinely denied and minimized any evidence that suggested concussions and repeated head trauma contributed to early-onset dementia. Since that time, Roger Goodell changed the league’s stance on concussion management–including greater preventative measures in protecting N.F.L. players from long-term psychological problems. However, the league still failed to formerly recognize the growing number of scientists who had evidence to prove that concussions lead to CTE in many professional football players.

However, in a recent turn of events the league has publicly acknowledged the existence of CTE. In fact, league spokesman, Greg Aiello, recently stated in a telephone interview:

It’s quite obvious from the medical research that’s been done that concussions can lead to long-term problems.

Furthermore, Aiello also mentioned that the league would consider donating $1 million or more to The Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy. This represents the first time the league has publicly acknowledged the existence of CTE and indicates a positive move towards preserving the health of men who participate in the game of football–an American cultural hallmark.