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An Increasing Number Of Retired NFL Players Are Developing Brain Diseases Due To Concussions Sustained During Their Careers

In the last year, there has been increased media coverage of numerous retired NFL players who have developed brain diseases due to the multiple concussions and hits to the head they sustained during their football careers. 

With the recent settlement between the NFL and retired football players in the concussion and brain injury lawsuit filed by the players, more retired football players are coming forward stating that they too suffer permanent brain injuries and diseases.  For more information about the recent settlement, see The NFL Settles Lawsuit Related To Concussions And Permanent Brain Injuries For $765 Million.

Most recently, Tony Dorsett, a Hall of Fame running back, took part in a UCLA pilot study and announced that he has chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, which is a degenerative brain disease found in athletes with a history of repetitive brain trauma. *Source: http://www.cnn.com

Though typically the only way to definitely diagnose CTE is by analyzing brain tissue after death, the UCLA pilot study is hoping to find ways to diagnose CTE in living players.

When players sustain multiple head traumas, including multiple concussions, there is a progressive degeneration of the brain tissue. With the degeneration, there is a build-up of an abnormal protein called tau.  After the players are deceased, researchers look for clumps of tau, which has been found in the brains of dozens of deceased NFL players.

The pilot study at UCLA uses a positron emission tomography scan, or PET scan, and injects players with a radioactive marker that travels through the body and latches on to tau in the brain.  Thereafter, players’ brains are scanned.

Dr. Gary Small, a professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, and lead author of the study, stated that the tau in the living players’ brains lit up after brain scans.

However, this is a pilot study and other experts caution that the pilot study is preliminary and needs further study.

Dorsett said that the diagnosis explains a lot about his increasing trouble with memory over the last few years, such as forgetting where he is driving to.  He also suffers from mood swings.

Dorsett also said that the recent lawsuit settlement between the players and the NFL is not enough.  He blames his team owners for his health issues.  He said, “[t]he owners knew (about the dangers of concussions) for years and they looked the other way, and they kept putting us players in harm's way."

Players’ Traumatic Brain Injuries Caused By Coaches & Team Owners’ Negligence

Dorsett’s statement about coaches and owners looking the other way about the dangers of concussions does not only apply to professional football.  High school and college footbal teams/coaches also often look the other way when it comes to concussions.

Coaches and schools may be negligent and cause a young athlete to sustain permanent brain injury when the player is sent back into a game immediately after suffering a hit to the head.  Coaches may tell the athlete to be tough, and the young athlete may want to please his coach.  Such players may go back in the game when they really shouldn’t.  When the players sustain subsequent hits to the head, they may suffer brain injuries that are not reversible.

In such situations, the school and coaches may be responsible and liable for the player’s injuries due to their negligence.

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