With chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) being diagnosed in over 90 percent of NFL athletes, new research suggests that it makes the athletes significantly vulnerable to Parkinson’s disease.
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CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, is a degenerative brain disease common in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma — something that has haunted contact sports for decades.
Data-driven: According to new research, men who play organized tackle football are at higher odds of developing Parkinson’s or Parkinson’s-like symptoms — with a longer duration or higher level of career associated with greater odds.
Conventional wisdom: Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder with an estimated 90,000 new cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year — most likely in individuals aged over 65.
Researchers note that since Parkinson’s can manifest in these athletes even a decade after retirement — suggesting the use of brain imaging tests and biomarkers for earlier detection of the condition.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s develop slowly over the years, with early signs including:
As the condition progresses, patients have great difficulty standing or moving and may experience hallucinations, sleep disorders, anxiety, and depression.
What’s next: Even as companies continue to dish out better helmets, experts criticize their protective benefits — suggesting that sport-wide regulations and better management of concussions would be the best approach.
Already having pledged $200 million to support “independent medical research and engineering advancements” to make the game safer, the NFL will also mandate the use of Guardian Caps, and improve athlete monitoring while “finding a language that mitigates unintended consequences.”