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Despite NFL Settlement, There's Still No Conclusive Evidence Playing Football Causes Alzheimer's or CTE

MAYWOOD, Ill.  –  Despite the NFL’s $765 million settlement with retired players, there still is no credible scientific evidence that playing football causes Alzheimer’s disease or other neurological disorders, according to Loyola University Medical Center clinical neuropsychologist Christopher Randolph, PhD, who has published multiple studies on the topic.

“The lawsuit is not a scientific issue, it’s a legal and political issue,” Randolph said. “There is absolutely no credible scientific data to suggest an increase of neurological risk from playing professional football."

Under the tentative settlement, the NFL would pay up to $5 million for each player who has Alzheimer’s disease and up to $4 million for each death from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). But a recent study by Randolph and colleagues of retired NFL football players found no evidence that CTE even exists. The study was published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society.

Randolph said there currently are no conclusive data that retired NFL players suffer a unique neuropathology. CTE is a vague condition, with no established clinical criteria and no consistent pathological criteria to diagnose it. And recent studies have found that NFL players have overall mortality rates that are only half of expected rates based upon men in the general population. Suicide rates are only about 40 percent of the rates in the general population.

“We still do not know if NFL players have an increased risk of late-life neurodegenerative disorders,” Randolph said. “If there is a risk, it probably is not a great risk. And there is essentially no evidence to support the existence of any unique clinical disorder such as CTE.”

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

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Jim Ritter
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