Bioethics Blogs

Heads Up: Time to Say Goodbye to Football

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

Suppose a prescribed drug caused brain damage in 99.1% of people who took it. Would you take the drug? How long before that drug was pulled from the marketplace and the lawsuits against the manufacturer began? What if that drug made the company $7.2 billion per year? What if those who took the drug became celebrities for a brief period of time? Would you consider taking it then? Most rational people would refrain from the medication and the FDA would remove it from the market.

If you substitute the word “football” for “drug,” then you know the results of a new study in

JAMA, which definitively proves that football is bad for one’s health. In the study of 111 brains of former NFL players donated to the researchers, 110 (that’s 99.1% of the sample) showed evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Researchers examined a total of 202 donated brains. Ninety-one brains came from non-NFL players including those who played in pre-high school; high school; college, semi-pro, and Canadian Football League. Of those brains 66 showed evidence of CTE (72.5%). The percent of players with CFL increases with the level of football play (which is a substitute for number of years in the sport and number of likely concussions).

Level of PlayPercent of Brains Showing CTE
Pre-High School0%
High School21%
College91%
Semi-Pro64%
CFL88%
NFL99%
*Maez, Daneshvar, Kiernan 2017

The severity of the brain’s CTE was correlated with the level of play as well. One hundred percent of high school player’s brains had mild CTE and 86% of professional players had severe CTE.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.