TAMPA (FOX 13) - The brain disease CTE was found in 99 percent of brains studied from former NFL players according to a new report.
It total, researchers looked at the brains of 202 former football players, from high school on through the pros, after their deaths.
Many donors agreed to contribute to the research because they suffered CTE symptoms before death – and suffered repeated concussions during their football-playing years.
Of the 111 brains from former NFL players, 110 showed signs of the disease.
Researchers also found professionals had the most severe CTE, as compared to those who only played in high school or college.
Although the average age of death among all players studied was 66, CTE was also diagnosed in three former high school players.
Dr. Ann McKee of the Boston University CTE Center hopes research may lead to answers and an understanding of how to detect the disease.
“There is no more debate about whether this is a problem in football, it is a problem and we need to come together and find solutions for this problem,” Dr. McKee said.
Parents, meanwhile, are faced with the decision about whether or not to let their children play football as evidence mounts the sport could be harmful later in life.
“It’s definitely something to put a lot of thought into,” Michael McCormick, father of two young boys, told FOX 13 News. “When it gets to the flag football stage it’s good but the tackle, the hard hitting, it may make me think twice.”
McCormick says he'll be hesitant to suit them up in pads one day. But father Jarred McDowell, who admits the 2015 film “Concussion” was an eye opener, says he has few reservations about his 11-year-old son playing football.
When asked if he was concerned about long-term damage, he said, “Long term damage? Not really as long as they keep it safe and no helmet-to-helmet hitting, it should be OK.”
The NFL released the following statement in regards to the report:
"We appreciate the work done by Dr. McKee and her colleagues for the value it adds in the ongoing quest for a better understanding of CTE. Case studies such as those compiled in this updated paper are important to further advancing the science and progress related to head trauma. The medical and scientific communities will benefit from this publication and the NFL will continue to work with a wide range of experts to improve the health of current and former NFL athletes. As noted by the authors, there are still many unanswered questions relating to the cause, incidence and prevalence of long-term effects of head trauma such as CTE. The NFL is committed to supporting scientific research into CTE and advancing progress in the prevention and treatment of head injuries.
In 2016, the NFL pledged $100 million in support for independent medical research and engineering advancements in neuroscience related topics. This is in addition to the $100 million that the NFL and its partners are already spending on medical and neuroscience research."