CTE & the NFL: American Football Brain Study Should Not Be Taken Seriously

American football is a dangerous sport.

Everyone agrees with that fact.

As such, it came as no surprise when a study came out last week and scared the living daylights out of fans and American football players alike when it suggested that 99 percent of all NFL athletes would probably suffer from CTE down the line. The study probably didn’t impede your ability to bet on football with this season’s games.

But you most likely took a bit of a pause at the implications of the study. Well, Dr. Jesse Mez doesn’t think you should be worrying too much. An assistant professor at Boston University’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center, Mez has come out to vehemently oppose the suggestion the study makes that participation in football makes one susceptible to CTE.

Jesse was driven to write his article (Clinicopathological Evaluation of CTE in Players of American Football) because the media took the study and blew it out of proportion. Jesse argues in the article that the study everyone is so determined to quote is more of an observation than scientific research.

The study in question studied brain samples from American football players who had passed away after playing American football at different levels, this including high school, college level and even professionally.

One has little reason to take the study seriously because the brain samples it used came from American football players that had manifested symptoms of cognitive ailments before they died. In other words, the samples came from a biased group.

The study would only gain authenticity if the samples used came from as random an offering of American football players as possible. The samples used in the study were all but guaranteed to create an association between the game of American football and CTE.

It didn’t help that there were no controls to speak of. It would have benefited players to know that brain samples from non-athletes who did not have behavioral problems had also been tested.

Try to remember that brain doctors are not even certain that repetitive head trauma causes CTE. One way to put that argument to rest would have been to include a control group of samples from people who did not play American football.

There are so many questions that are yet to be answered when it comes to the health hazards of playing this sport. No one is denying the fact that repetitive head trauma is unhealthy. However, the study that everyone is buzzing about seemed to suggest that the medical arena had indeed arrived at a consensus on the matter.

The study itself isn’t the problem because its authors clearly stated that they were not making any concrete conclusions about American football and CTE because they did not have enough data to work with. The problem is the media which began to spread the suggestions the study made as gospel truth.

There is no telling how many footballers have been shaken by the erroneous interpretation of this study and the manner in which their ability to perform on the field will be debilitated. There is something to be said about the place that responsible journalism has in the world of sports.

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