boston children's hospital nfl cte study

Boston Children's Hospital will take a deep dive into the health consequences of head hits for NFL players and possible CTE prevention in a new 5-year study. 


Boston Children’s Hospital has received a $14.7 million grant from the National Football League to study former NFL players in the search for answers about concussions and CTE.

Boston-area researchers have led the way when it comes to learning about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the degenerative brain disease that causes memory loss, aggression, confusion and more.

But there’s still a lot of unknowns about CTE and the long-term health consequences of concussions and sub-concussive injuries (those hits to the head that are below the threshold of an actual concussion).

Boston Children’s Hospital hopes to find those answers, as well as look at potential CTE treatments and preventions, in a five year project.


"There is a pressing need for data-driven approaches to better understand the risk, incidence, characteristics, progression, and treatment of neurologic health problems faced by former NFL players," said William Meehan, MD, of Boston Children's Hospital Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Center, in a statement.  "A data-driven approach is also needed to determine the potential effects of sport-related concussions and sub-concussive blows — including the potential for CTE."

Boston Children’s Hospital study hopes to slow progession of CTE

Meehan is the study’s principal investigator and will lead the Boston Children’s Hospital research team, in collaboration with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Medical College of Wisconsin and University Orthopedic Center - State College, PA.

The study will track former NFL players, including up to 2,500 of them who were previously surveyed in 2001, for annual health assessments. By combining results with that earlier survey, the Boston Children’s Hospital project will “give a prospective view of health outcomes over a 20-year span.”

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 An image of a brain with advanced CTE (right) compared to a normal brain, from previous research by the BU CTE Center. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

While these NFL players are evaluated, Boston Children’s Hospital researchers will also conduct “preclinical laboratory studies,” investigating potential therapies to prevent and slow the progression of neurological health issues, including CTE.

Researchers will then turn the most effective therapies into clinical intervention studies for at-risk former football players.

This NFL-funded study will continue on the work Boston Children’s Hospital has already done. Researchers there have been looking into the effects of sport-related concussions and sub-concussive hits on neurologic health for over a decade, according to the institution.

"This new study is part of a continued effort to improve player safety and quality of life for athletes of all ages," Meehan said.

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