Study examines brain damage in football players

YORK, Pa. -- A recent study on the brains of former football players found many of them have a debilitating brain disease.

The findings are giving coaches and parents something to think about.

Some coaches believe studies like this give football a bad rap, while others say it does make them look differently at what happens here on the field.

Football coach James Way II teaches kids a few tricks he's learned since his time as a wide receiver and defensive back in high school.  However, these days coaches, parents and players might have something else to think about besides winning.

James Way II said "when you're playing, you never really think about the head injuries and things like that, or the side effects when you're playing. Then to see what happens to a lot of these guys after they're done playing, kind of scares you a little bit."

A recent study on the brains of about 200 deceased men who were football players, found that nearly 90 percent of them had Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy,  or CTE for short.

WellSpan Neurology Dr. Ellen Deibert said "CTE is a condition where patients develop emotional instability or they can have memory problems just like any other type of memory disorder or type of dementia."

Researchers examined the brains of people who played football in high school or college, and all the way up to the NFL. FOX 43 News asked Dr. Deibert if there should be a concern that only those already predisposed for the disease were included in the study.

"But we needed that self-selection because it hadn't been done yet. It's important to understand that sometimes we do need to look at things more specifically," Dr. Deibert said.

The report showed the bigger the league, the more brains were diagnosed with CTE.

Three out of 14 high school players, 48 out of 53 college players, and all except one out of 111 pro players were diagnosed with brain damage.

That won't stop Sarah Lindsay from encouraging her 12-year-old son Joshua to fulfill his dream of playing in the NFL.

"Trusting, and praying for his protection. I do know that concussions are serious, but I do trust the coaches to take care of the kids too, and make sure that the equipment is checked out," Lindsay said.

"The game has gotten a lot more protective now of the players than it was when we were younger," Way said.

"Back in the 80s, the padding wasn't quite as good as it is now, and we did take a lot of hits, but as a player, you didn't think about it, we just wanted to win," Way added.

Way said knowing what he knows now about concussions, that he wouldn't stop kids from playing football, but he would encourage them to wait until they're at least in 6th or 7th grade before joining him on the field.