Here’s What We Know About Football And Brain Injuries

By: Rachael Rettner
Published: 03/18/2015 10:51 AM EDT

The up-and-coming professional football player Chris Borland, of the San Francisco 49ers, is now leaving the sport out of concern that a career in football would increase his risk of brain disease. But what types of neurological problems have been linked with football, and how might these arise?

On Monday (March 16), Borland announced he was retiring from football after studying the link between football head injuries and degenerative brain disease, and discussing his decision with friends, family members, concussion researchers and teammates, according to ESPN.

“From what I’ve researched and what I’ve experienced, I don’t think it’s worth the risk,” Borland told ESPN. “I just want to live a long, healthy life, and I don’t want to have any neurological diseases or die younger than I would otherwise,” Borland said. [6 Foods That Are Good for Your Brain]

The types of brain damage that can occur as a result of being a professional football player have received increased attention in recent years. For example, there is growing awareness of a particularly severe degenerative brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The disease has been linked to the deaths of Tom McHale, who played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Dave Duerson, who played for the Chicago Bears.

In fact, researchers at Boston University have now found signs of CTE in nearly 60 former professional football players when their brains were analyzed after their deaths, according to the university’s CTE Center. (CTE can be diagnosed only after death.)

In most cases, CTE is thought to be caused by repeated blows to the head, which damage brain tissue and lead to a buildup of an abnormal protein called tau, according to the CTE Center.

In addition to football players, CTE has also been seen in boxers and —> Read More