VA’s chief neuropathologist discusses how study links NFL players with Veterans

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Dr. Ann McKee is known as a leading authority on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease commonly found in athletes and military Veterans who participated in physically intensive contact activities, such as boxing, football and the military battlefield. McKee is the director of the CTE Center at Boston University (BU) and chief neuropathologist for VA Boston and director of the brain banks for VA Boston and Boston University School of Medicine, including the VA-BU-Concussion Legacy Foundation’s (CLF) Brain Bank, the world’s largest tissue repository focused on traumatic brain injury (TBI) and CTE. The bank has more than 425 brains, including more than 270 diagnosed with CTE.

Recently, McKee received international media attention for her breakthrough study analyzing the brains of American football players, which found CTE in 99 percent of NFL players, 91 percent of college players and 21 percent of high school players. The research, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on July 25, was the largest number of CTE cases ever studied.

McKee answered five questions about her brain trauma research for VAntage Point.

1. Years of your research confirm that CTE is real, and now your recently published comprehensive study in JAMA shows that 99 percent of the brains of American football players you studied had definitive CTE. How is this research relevant to Veterans?

There are many parallels between concussive injury experienced during contact sports and exposure to blast and concussive injury experienced by Veterans. In addition, many

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