Office of Research & Development

print icon sign up for VA Research updates
VA RESEARCH QUARTERLY UPDATE
 

In the News

VA research highlighted in PBS Frontline investigation


Dr. Ann McKee teaches medical students at the brain bank located at the Bedford (Mass.) VA Medical Center.
Dr. Ann McKee teaches medical students at the brain bank located at the Bedford (Mass.) VA Medical Center. (Photo by Frank Curran)

Dr. Ann McKee teaches medical students at the brain bank located at the Bedford (Mass.) VA Medical Center. (Photo by Frank Curran)

On Oct. 1, 2014, many Public Broadcasting System (PBS) stations aired "League of Denial," an investigation into what PBS called the "National Football League (NFL)'s concussion crisis."

PBS highlighted data from the Bedford VAMC's brain repository revealing that the brains of 76 of 79 former NFL players showed evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) upon examination. In addition, Bedford researchers examined the brain tissue of 128 football players who, before they died, played the game at high school level or above, including professionally. Of that sample, 101 players (80 percent) tested positive for CTE.

VA and Boston University researcher Dr. Ann McKee, director of the brain bank, told Frontline that the findings suggest a clear link between football and traumatic brain injury. She said, "The higher the level you play football, and the longer you play football, the higher your risk."

CTE occurs when repetitive head trauma begins to produce abnormal proteins in the brain known as "tau." The tau proteins essentially form tangles around the brain's blood vessels, interrupting normal functioning and eventually killing nerve cells themselves. Patients with less advanced forms of the disease can suffer from mood disorders, such as depression and bouts of rage, while those with more severe cases can experience confusion, memory loss, and advanced dementia.


Questions about the R&D website? Email the Web Team.

Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.