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New Research Shows Prevalence of Post-Concussion Problems

Zac Easter, No. 44, suffered three concussions in a two-month period during his senior year of high school. (CTE Hope)
Zac Easter, No. 44, suffered three concussions in a two-month period during his senior year of high school. (CTE Hope)
July 26, 2017

INDIANOLA, Iowa - Ninety-nine percent of former National Football League players whose brains were studied suffered from the degenerative disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE, according to just-released research.

The finding doesn't surprise Brenda Easter of Indianola. Her son Zac took his life at age 24 after suffering with CTE following years of playing football. She now operates a foundation, CTE Hope, working to develop a saliva test that could immediately reveal concussions.

Easter said she's part of a "football family" and noted that her husband coached at the collegiate level for 14 years.

"Our grandchildren will not play the sport until we've determined how to make it a safer sport for everyone," she said.

Easter pointed to research that shows two-thirds of high schools don't have an athletic trainer on the sideline during football games. She also cited a dearth of qualified doctors to help treat people with CTE symptoms. She said Zac Easter had lost the ability to follow conversations and maintain his balance well enough to walk across a room before taking his life in 2015.

The study, in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association, found that 110 of 111 NFL players whose brains were studied after their deaths showed they had CTE. Easter said she's heard the rationale of some former athletes.

"'Well, you know, I played football but I feel fine.' So, what we know about CTE is they can start having symptoms as early as five years post-play," she said. "But we also know that it can be 20, 25 years post-play."

She encouraged parents to pay careful attention to research being released on contact sports and the dangers of CTE.

As she put it, "This is real."

The JAMA research is online at jamanetwork.com, and more information on CTE Hope is at cte-hope.org.

Kevin Patrick Allen, Public News Service - IA