Eagles react to new study showing CTE found in majority of football players' brains

Eagles react to new study showing CTE found in majority of football players' brains

CHICAGO -- Research on 202 former football players found evidence of brain disease in nearly all of them, from athletes in the NFL, college and even high school.

It's the largest update on chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a brain disease linked with repeated head blows.

But the report doesn't confirm that the condition is common in all football players; it reflects high occurrence in samples at a Boston brain bank that studies CTE. Many donors or their families contributed because of the players' repeated concussions and troubling symptoms before death.

"There are many questions that remain unanswered," said lead author Dr. Ann McKee, a Boston University neuroscientist. "How common is this" in the general population and all football players?

"How many years of football is too many?" and "What is the genetic risk? Some players do not have evidence of this disease despite long playing years," she noted.

It's also uncertain if some players' lifestyle habits -- alcohol, drugs, steroids, diet -- might somehow contribute, McKee said.

Dr. Munro Cullum, a neuropsychologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, emphasized that the report is based on a selective sample of men who were not necessarily representative of all football players. He said problems other than CTE might explain some of their most common symptoms before death -- depression, impulsivity and behavior changes. He was not involved in the report.

McKee said research from the brain bank may lead to answers and an understanding of how to detect the disease in life, "while there's still a chance to do something about it." There's no known treatment.

The study came out just days before Eagles' veterans report to training camp, causing Chris Long and Brandon Brooks to react on Twitter.

The strongest scientific evidence says CTE can only be diagnosed by examining brains after death, although some researchers are experimenting with tests performed on the living. Many scientists believe that repeated blows to the head increase risks for developing CTE, leading to progressive loss of normal brain matter and an abnormal buildup of a protein called tau. Combat veterans and athletes in rough contact sports like football and boxing are among those thought to be most at risk.

The new report was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

CTE was diagnosed in 177 former players or nearly 90 percent of brains studied. That includes 110 of 111 brains from former NFL players; 48 of 53 college players; nine of 14 semi-professional players, seven of eight Canadian Football league players and three of 14 high school players. The disease was not found in brains from two younger players.

A panel of neuropathologists made the diagnosis by examining brain tissue, using recent criteria from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, McKee said.

The NFL issued a statement saying these reports are important for advancing science related to head trauma and said the league "will continue to work with a wide range of experts to improve the health of current and former NFL athletes."

After years of denials, the NFL acknowledged a link between head blows and brain disease and agreed in a $1 billion settlement to compensate former players who had accused the league of hiding the risks.

The journal update includes many previously reported cases, including former NFL players Bubba Smith, Ken Stabler, Junior Seau and Dave Duerson.

New ones include retired tight end Frank Wainright, whose 10-year NFL career included stints with the Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens. Wainright died last October at age 48 from a heart attack triggered by bleeding in the brain, said his wife, Stacie. She said he had struggled almost eight years with frightening symptoms including confusion, memory loss and behavior changes.

Wainright played before the league adopted stricter safety rules and had many concussions, she said. He feared CTE and was adamant about donating his brain, she said.

"A lot of families are really tragically affected by it -- not even mentioning what these men are going through and they're really not sure what is happening to them. It's like a storm that you can't quite get out of," his wife said.

Frank Wycheck, another former NFL tight end, said he worries that concussions during his nine-year career -- the last seven with the Tennessee Titans -- have left him with CTE and he plans to donate his brain to research.

"Some people have heads made of concrete, and it doesn't really affect some of those guys," he said. "But CTE is real."

"I know I'm suffering through it, and it's been a struggle and I feel for all the guys out there that are going through this," said Wycheck, 45.

In the new report, McKee and colleagues found the most severe disease in former professional players; mild disease was found in all three former high school players diagnosed with the disease. Brain bank researchers previously reported that the earliest known evidence of CTE was found in a high school athlete who played football and other sports who died at age 18. He was not included in the current report.

The average age of death among all players studied was 66. There were 18 suicides among the 177 diagnosed.

Former Eagles punter Max Runager dies at age 61

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Former Eagles punter Max Runager dies at age 61

ORANGEBURG, S.C. -- Max Runager, the former NFL punter who helped the San Francisco 49ers win the Super Bowl following the 1984 season, has died. He was 61.

The 49ers announced Runager's death Sunday, and The Times and Democrat of Orangeburg reported he was found dead Friday in his car in a parking lot in South Carolina. No foul play is suspected.

Runager played 11 seasons in the NFL after being drafted out of South Carolina by the Eagles in the eighth round in 1979. He spent his first five years with the Eagles, losing the Super Bowl following the 1980 season before joining San Francisco in 1984.

Runager punted 332 times in an Eagles uniform, fifth-most in franchise history, behind Adrian Burk (393), Sean Landeta (376), Tommy Hutton (349) and John Teltschik (345).

After spending the 1979 through 1983 seasons with the Eagles, he spent 1984 through 1987 and part of 1988 with the 49ers and finished 1988 with the Browns. But he returned to Philly in 1989 and finished his career with the Eagles, playing four more games late in the season after Teltschik went on injured reserve with a knee injury.

The Niners went 15-1 Runager's first season and beat Miami for the Super Bowl. Runager played four seasons for San Francisco and came back for one game in 1988.

Runager finished his career with 661 career punts and a 40.2 yards-per-punt average.

Jeremy Maclin signs with Ravens, but Eagles reportedly also in pursuit

Jeremy Maclin signs with Ravens, but Eagles reportedly also in pursuit

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Receiver Jeremy Maclin has signed a two-year contract with the Baltimore Ravens, who spent much of the offseason looking for a deep threat.

After being cut by Kansas City earlier this month, Maclin last week visited LeSean McCoy and Buffalo before heading to Baltimore. He chose the Ravens, who announced the signing on Monday.

According to ESPN's Josina Anderson, the Eagles were a finalist for Maclin's services. 

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson had said last week the team, at the moment, wasn't interested in bringing back Maclin.

Maclin fulfills the Ravens' quest to provide another downfield target for quarterback Joe Flacco. Mike Wallace returns, but Steve Smith won't be coming back after announcing his retirement.

Maclin broke into the NFL with the Eagles and spent the last two years with Kansas City. A Pro Bowler in 2014, Maclin had 44 catches last year despite missing four games with a groin injury.

His 87 receptions in 2015 are a career high and set the Chiefs' single-season record by a wide receiver.

Maclin, who can return punts, has 46 career TDs.