Donated NFL players' brains show more than 80% suffered brain disease

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KIMTKIMT News 3 – A study of dozens of former deceased NFL players is showing a link between repeated head trauma and brain disease.

According to the Boston University study, 87 of the 91 NFL players studied showed signs of CTE or chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Researchers say of the athletes who donated their brains many complained of head pain. Doctors say there should be more emphasis on the long-term impacts of repeated collisions on the field.

"The fact that you have a concussion seems to trigger something that causes degeneration and releases a special protein that is also found in Alzheimer's," said Dr. Catherine Butler of Hancock County Health Systems in Britt.

Research into the "tau" protein found in the brain has been linked to symptoms of Alzheimer's. The protein is said to build up in the brain and cut-off vital neural pathways affecting short-term and long-term memory.

Doctors say the results are troubling, but those who should be most concerned are the young athletes who's brains are taking severe hits while they're still developing.

"Whether it's professional or high school level or junior high, the repetitive nature of it is what particularly causes problems. If you have an injury right after it, there's more additional damage," said Butler.

Over the past few years, NFL officials have made changes to the rules and equipment to increase safety.

That includes moving kickoffs up five yards to limit the number of kickoff returns and violent collisions that go with them.