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In a study of the brains of 111 deceased former NFL players who had concussion-related problems, 110 had signs of neurodegenerative disease found in autopsy. The new study – the largest of its kind to date — is certain to fuel new rounds of questions about concussions for the NFL and the league's players.

What they found: Researchers examined the brains of 202 former football players (ranging from a handful of high school players to more than 100 former NFL players) who donated their brains for research after they'd developed concussion-related symptoms during their lives. From this group, autopsy showed that 87% showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is the neurodegenerative disease normally associated with the type of head trauma players experience following repeated concussions. Among former NFL players included in the study, however, that number rose to 99% being diagnosed post-mortem.

An important caveat: The study authors, led by Ann McKee from the Boston University CTE Center, are careful to point out that the brains included in the research were from former players who were already experiencing symptoms and signs associated with CTE, and therefore represent a highly self-selected group. There were no brains from former NFL players who were free of CTE-related symptoms when they died.

Still, with the number of post-mortem CTE diagnoses this high among former NFL players, the study will certainly become a central point of discussion among the parties in the NFL dealing with this ongoing issue. They also acknowledge that other football-related factors – like when a player is first exposed to football, how long they played, what position they played, and the number of cumulative hits to the head they experienced as a player – also may influence a CTE diagnosis.

"In a convenience sample of deceased football players who donated their brains for research, a high proportion had neuropathological evidence of CTE, suggesting that CTE may be related to prior participation in football," the authors concluded.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases rose 10% in the week before Thanksgiving.
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York coronavirus restrictions.
  3. World: Expert says COVID vaccine likely won't be available in Africa until Q2 of 2021 — Europeans extend lockdowns.
  4. Economy: The winners and losers of the COVID holiday season.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.
4 hours ago - Health

Standardized testing becomes another pandemic victim

Photo: Edmund D. Fountain for The Washington Post via Getty

National standardized reading and math tests have been pushed from next year to 2022, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: There’s mounting national evidence that students are suffering major setbacks this year, with a surge in the number of failing grades.

4 hours ago - World

European countries extend lockdowns

A medical worker takes a COVID-19 throat swab sample at the Berlin-Brandenburg Airport. Photo by Maja Hitij via Getty

Recent spikes in COVID-19 infections across Europe have led authorities to extend restrictions ahead of the holiday season.

Why it matters: "Relaxing too fast and too much is a risk for a third wave after Christmas," said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.