An N.F.L. Doctor Wants to Know Why Some Players Get C.T.E. and Others Don’t

Joseph Maroon, a neurosurgeon, began working for the Pittsburgh Steelers as a consulting doctor starting in 1977 and over 46 years has examined and treated stars from the notoriously hard-nosed dynasty, including the Hall of Famers Terry Bradshaw, Mean Joe Greene and Lynn Swann.

Many of them, he said, worry about the health of their brains because they played when concussions were viewed as “dings,” full-contact practices were common and the most violent hits were still permitted.

“Certainly, everyone who has participated at that level has some concern,” Maroon said last week in his office at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Presbyterian Hospital. “But we haven’t seen the epidemic that one might anticipate from playing in that era with less protective helmets, less rules and harder fields. There’s just so many unknowns.”

A growing number of scientific studies done over the past 15 years have found links between repeated head trauma and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease. Many of those have come via the C.T.E. Center at Boston University, which has examined the brains of hundreds of former N.F.L. players and other athletes and military personnel.

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