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Clinicopathological evaluation of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in players of American football
JAMA 2017; 318:360-370
You may have already seen the results of this paper through a media outlet. Let’s take a closer look. This study represents the largest case series of deceased American football players who donated their brains for research. At first glance the results appear shocking but further consideration is needed.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) was diagnosed in 177 of 202 (87%) deceased players, including a subgroup of NFL players in which CTE was identified in 99% of cases. Suicide was the most common cause of death in mild CTE, and dementia or parkinsonian-related disease in severe CTE.
The majority of players in this study were at the elite level, so caution must be taken when generalising results to other football players. The authors also acknowledged that the cohort was a ‘conveniently’ selected sample and had an ascertainment bias due to athletes’ participation in the brain donation programme. Furthermore, …
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.