Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy

It’s not often that I come across a news article or research paper that stops me in my tracks. By that, most information has become known to me though my circle of “concussion friends” or leads that the public sends my way.

There are times when Alan Schwarz writes, I feel as though he is breaking news, which to me is exciting. But getting the back story on someone or something really stops me. To learn what people have done and gone through to dedicate themselves to a particular cause starts to paint a picture.

Yesterday Caleb Daniloff wrote an article for BU Today in the World, about the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy. This is an article that all people, not just researchers or professionals, should take time to read. It’s about how the CSTE is going to make the sports we love safer and lives we live longer.

At the time of McKee’s discovery, Grimsley was the fifth former NFL player diagnosed with CTE. The untimely deaths of the others often followed years of strange behavior. “Iron Mike” Webster of the Pittsburgh Steelers, felled by a heart attack at 50, took to living in his truck and at train stations and tazing himself to relieve back pain. Steelers lineman Terry Long, 45, killed himself by drinking anti freeze. Philadelphia Eagles defender Andre Waters put a gun to his head at age 44. And 36-year-old Steelers lineman Justin Strzelczyk died in a high-speed police chase.

For years, the NFL downplayed the link between head blows on the field and brain damage later in life. The league’s medical advisor had this to say about Guskiewicz’s 2003 findings: “When I look at that study, I don’t believe it.”

The article is more than just finding information on CTE, and what its destructive behavior might be.

In early October 2009, as BU’s School of Medicine was gearing up to host a conference on athletes and concussions at Gillette Stadium, in Foxboro, Mass., home of the New England Patriots, the results of a long-touted study commissioned by the NFL had leaked to the media. The research showed the prevalence of dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other memory-related diseases among retired players to be as much as 19 times higher than in the general U.S. male population. The league claimed the study was incomplete. Further findings, it said, would be needed. “They had a very bizarre reaction,” Nowinski says. “They paid for the study, yet they tried to distance themselves from it. But you understand their position. The guys who commissioned the study are probably not the same guys who had to react to it.”

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