Researchers at the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University have recently conducted a study on the relation between football and brain trauma. They have found that professional NFL players are almost guaranteed to suffer from a degenerative brain ailment called CTE or chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Out of the 91 ex-NFL players who donated their brains for helping scientists with their research, 87 were found to have CTE. This means 96% of the NFL players undergoing tests during the study tested positive for the degenerative brain disorder.

The facts and figures obtained during the study were published by PBS Frontline in the form of a detailed report.

During the study, researchers tested brains of a total of 165 football players who played the game in high school and beyond. These included both non-pros and pros. CTE was detected in 79% of these players. Also, it was found that over 40% of the players who tested positive for the disease either played as defensive or offensive lineman.

While originally CTE was believed to be caused by frequent and aggressive concussive collisions, the new study is suggesting that collective impact of minor head traumas might turn out to be even more harmful.

Dr. Ann McKee, the study’s lead researcher and the head of the neuropathy department of VA Boston Healthcare System, said that many still believe that the researchers are giving this finding more attention that what it deserves and trying to sensationalize the matter in spite of knowing that CTE is a rare disease. Dr. McKee informed that the fact is exactly the opposite and said that she and her team didn’t need to put in much effort for finding hundreds of players with the problem.

While it’s possible to identify signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in brains of the living players by means of an MRI, under current circumstances, definitive diagnosis of the condition is possible only posthumously.

Doctors started to identify the signs of CTE only some time back. Signs of the disease may include headaches, depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, balance problems, memory loss, and a range of other behavior and mood changes.

The past few years have seen the NFL face fierce criticism for failing continuously in addressing dangers associated with head trauma. It has also faced allegations of covering up the link between head injuries suffered by football players and CTE.