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Football season is upon us again. It has been several years since the connection between repeated head impacts in contact sports and a degenerative brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) became mainstream knowledge. Researchers are still working to unpack this largely mysterious disease in order to better protect football players and other people who may be at risk of developing CTE.

What’s New in CTE Research?

One ongoing study is looking at CTE’s connection to tissue in the brain called “white matter.” Data published this month suggests that among older men who had played football and also had CTE, more years of playing football were associated with the decrease in density in their white matter, leading to greater “neurofibrillary tangles” – known to be a key player in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. 

Another study is looking into the benefits of medical marijuana to treat cognitive disease and manage pain. Former NFL players Calvin Johnson and Rob Sims have partnered with Harvard University to research the ability of cannabidiol (CBD), a compound in cannabis to treat CTE and other cognitive disease associated with playing football.

Why Does CTE Matter So Much?

When Anapol Weiss filed suit against the NFL on behalf of Ray Easterling – which eventually grew into the national NFL concussion litigation – we learned about the grave effects of CTE. Many lawsuits against the NFL were filed by former players’ families, alleging that neurological damage in their loved ones caused severe personality changes that eventually led them to commit suicide. 

It wasn’t long before concern about head trauma and CTE grew among parents of young athletes, coaches, helmet manufacturers, and other football players. That’s why today, CTE research is centered around understanding the disease, finding ways to treat those who suffer from it, and protecting other players from developing CTE in the future.

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