Study Shows Almost Half of Athletes Diagnosed With CTE Died Before Age 30

A new study shows that 40% of youth, high school, and college athletes diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) died before 30.

The study was conducted by the Boston University CTE Center, which examined 152 brains that were donated, 62 of which were diagnosed with the condition. The donors died between 2008 and 2022, and their ages at the time of death ranged from 13 to 29.

According to the university, the study is the largest case of athletes who died young. The study was published this week in JAMA Neurology.

“The fact that over 40% of young contact and collision sport athletes in the UNITE brain bank have CTE is remarkable, considering that studies of community brain banks show that fewer than 1% of the general population has CTE,” Dr. Ann McKee, lead author on the study and director of the BU CTE Center told ESPN.

“The findings emphasize that “not all contact sport athletes with symptoms have CTE.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, CTE is a brain disorder in which repeated blows to the head cause the death of nerve cells in the brain. The disorder currently can only be diagnosed posthumously.

The most common cause of death among the athletes studied was suicide, although research showed no relationship between the cause of death and the presence of the condition. Additionally, there wasn’t a significant difference in symptoms between those diagnosed with the disorder and those who weren’t. Symptoms such as depression and apathy were reported in nearly 70% of the athletes in the study, despite 59% of the brains studied not having CTE.

The majority of the athletes in the study were football players, and a small number played hockey and soccer. The scientists in the study also diagnosed the disorder in the first American female athlete, an anonymous 28-year soccer player, showing an emerging trend of female athletes being diagnosed with the disorder,

Notable NFL players diagnosed with CTE include Junior Seau, Jovan Belcher, Ken Stabler, and Andre Waters. The brain disorder was discovered by Dr. Bennet Omalu.