Sports Illustrated published a compelling article on long-term brain damage in NFL players–the cumulative effects of weekly hits to the head. Dr. Ann McKee, an associate professor of neurology and pathology at Boston University, studies the brains of deceased NFL players to better understand cumulative trauma to the brain:
This slide of a cross-section of a human male brain, magnified 100 times, showed scores, maybe hundreds, of tiny brownish triangular bits of a toxic protein called tau, choking off cellular life in the brain.
“This is Louis Creekmur,” said McKee. “You can see there are hardly any areas untouched by the damage. Like with Wally Hilgenberg, it is widespread in Louis Creekmur. I would call it incredible chaos in the brain. Louis was demented when he died.”
Lou Creekmur: 10-year NFL offensive lineman, Pro Football Hall of Famer. Wally Hilgenberg: 15-year NFL linebacker, one of the key members of the Vikings’ Purple People Eaters defense.
Dr. McKee has studied 14 brains of former NFL players–13 of those, she diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)–the same condition that affected Louis Creekmur and Wally Hilgenberg. While Louis Creekmur was demented when he died other players developed ALS and behavior problems from repeated head trauma.
Read the whole article: Concussions: the hits that are changing football
Further reading on what can happen to survivors of traumatic brain injury: Head Cases: Stories of Brain Injury and Its Aftermath by Michael Paul Mason.