Last month was the 50th iteration of the modern NFL draft. Bubba Smith was the first overall pick in 1967 draft, the first draft to take place after the NFL and American Football League (AFL) merger.
“CTE is an important discussion within the context of the NFL draft and rookie minicamps,” said Chris Nowinski, co-founder and president of the Concussion Legacy Foundation. “Despite its perception as an NFL problem, our team has also identified 45 cases of CTE in former college players. While we discuss and celebrate the future of former college players preparing for their first year in the NFL, we need to also discuss that CTE may be part of that future. It is time for entire football community to rally behind the research aimed at accelerating a cure for CTE.”
Smith was a teammate of Hall of Famers Ken Stabler, who it was announced in February had CTE when he died in 2015, and John Mackey, who was diagnosed with CTE after his death in 2011. Since then, Former Oakland Raiders George Atkinson, Phil Villapiano, George Buehler and Art Thoms, all former teammates of both Stabler and Smith, have pledged their brains to the Concussion Legacy Foundation as part of My Legacy, which encourages athletes to leave their legacy by helping solve the concussion crisis through brain donation or other means.
Last month VA Secretary Robert McDonald pledged to donate his brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation, joining NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. and soccer legend Brandi Chastain among over 1,100 others. The VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank is the largest sports concussion and CTE repository in the world with over 330 brains donated and over 200 cases confirmed, comprising an estimated 75% of the confirmed CTE cases globally.
In December the National Institutes of Health (NIH) gave a seven-year, $16 million dollar grant aimed at learning to diagnose CTE in living athletes to a consortium of 10 leading universities led by principal investigator Dr. Robert Stern, professor of neurology, neurosurgery and anatomy at Boston University School of Medicine, and three co-principal investigators from the Cleveland Clinic, Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
For more information on donating to the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank or to get involved, visit: concussionfoundation.org/get-involved