The money will support the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy's research into the long-term effects of repetitive brain trauma in athletes, particularly football players. The NFL is the first sports league to financially support this research at the school; concussions and results from brain trauma have plagued many players for years.
CSTE researchers have been a driving force in providing evidence that repetitive blows to the head in sports can cause a degenerative brain disease called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE. The disease is associated with cognitive and behavioral problems later in life, and eventually causes dementia.
"We obviously are very interested in the center's research on the long-term effects of head trauma in athletes," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. "It is our hope this research will lead to a better understanding of these effects and also to developing ways to help detect, prevent and treat these injuries."
CTE also is known as punch drunk syndrome and has been most common in boxers. In recent years, CTE has been shown to exist in other athletes, including professional and college football players and a professional hockey player.
Early on, CTE sufferers may display symptoms such as memory impairment, emotional instability, erratic behavior, depression and problems with impulse control. CTE eventually progresses into full-blown dementia. Although similar to Alzheimer's disease, CTE is an entirely distinct disease.
The center's research has primarily focused on examining brains of deceased athletes. Future research will done into understanding the consequences of sports-related brain trauma, and the center will launch a clinical research program to develop methods of early detection and to develop ways to effectively prevent and treat this disease.
"These unrestricted funds allow us to accelerate our research with independence and scientific integrity," said Dr. Robert Cantu, co-director of the center and a clinical professor of neurosurgery at BU's School of Medicine. "This gift and the significant changes made in recent months by the NFL demonstrate the league's commitment to the health and safety of current, retired, and future players, as well as millions of youth athletes."