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Deceased athletes' brains reveal the effects of head injuries

Much has been in the news today about the harmful effects of head injuries among professional football players. If you're at all interested in the topic, I encourage you to read a gripping story from The Guardian yesterday about Dave Duerson - a former NFL player who experienced a plethora of problems before committing suicide and requesting that his brain be donated to science - and the research being done at The Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, where Duerson's brain wound up. The Massachusetts-based center houses the world's largest bank of athletes' brains, and writer Ed Pilkington provides the reader with an inside look:

[Ann McKee, MD, a neuropathologist who jointly heads the lab] takes a deep look at the cross-section of [the brain of one former athlete] and momentarily appears sad. "This is a brain at the end-stage of disease," she says. "I would assume that with this amount of damage the person was very cognitively impaired. I would assume they were demented, had substantial problems with their speech and gait, that this person was Parkinsonian, was slow to speak and walk, if he could walk at all."

Without being melodramatic about it, I say, you are holding in your hands an example of the price that is paid for being a professional footballer at the top of his game.

She hesitates a second. "At least in this case, yes," she says.

 

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