Scientists are saying Kevin Turner, a former NFL fullback of seven years, who died in March of complications due to ALS, had “extraordinary and unprecedented” levels of CTE in his brain.
Turner, along with 380 other former NFL players, donated his brain to research on CTE as a way to further understand the effects of football on the human brain.
Dr. Robert Cantu, co-founder and medical director of the Concussion Legacy Foundation and clinical professor of neurosurgery at BU said of Turner’s case:
We believe the extreme severity of Kevin Turner’s disease is related to his 25-season career, and the fact he began playing tackle football at age 5, while his brain was still rapidly developing and more vulnerable
You can see here that it isn’t just the impact of blows to the head during an NFL career that Dr. Cantu is startled by, but rather that Turner began playing tackle football at a young age.
This is a much larger point illustrating the dangers of football beyond just professional or high level college players, that the sport itself is blatantly and unquestionably dangerous to the developing brain.
Dr. Ann McKee, who serves as professor of Neurology and Pathology at BU School of Medicine, director of BU’s CTE Center, among other positions in neurology, made a larger and worrying point about the connection between CTE and ALS, which allegedly led to Turner’s condition:
The severity of Mr. Turner’s CTE was extraordinary and unprecedented for an athlete who died in his 40s. While he had typical cognitive symptoms and problems with impulse control associated with CTE, it also appears that CTE decimated the motor cortex of his brain at a young age, likely leading to his ALS symptoms. After now completing the analysis of the brains of 228 former football players, we have seen a clear trend that length of career is associated with CTE severity.
CTE and general brain trauma in football players is a very polarizing topic, with stars like Junior Seau, Ken Stabler, and Frank Gifford being some of the more prominent cases.
This disease is particularly terrifying because of its wide array of effects; from memory loss, to depression, to a possible link to ALS, we’ve seen some of our favorite football players fall victim to these conditions.
Research continues into the effects of football on the brain, but in the meantime you might want to keep your kid off the gridiron for as long as possible.