Reports show an increasing number of retired NFL players who have suffered concussions have developed memory and cognitive issues such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, depression and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is a degenerative disease of the brain and is associated with repeated head traumas. (NFL and IQVIA)
(Preseason and regular-season practices plus games)
2015 – 275
2016 – 243
2017 – 281
2018 – 214
2019 – 224
2020 – 172 (no preseason games due to the Covid-19 pandemic)
2021 – 187
1994 – In response to a series of player retirements due to head injuries, including the retirement of Chicago Bears fullback Merril Hoge due to repeated concussions, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue creates the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee. Dr. Elliot Pellman is named chairman despite not having experience with brain injuries.
2002 – Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist and co-founder of the Brain Injury Research Institute, identifies CTE in the brain of former Pittsburgh Steelers’ center Mike Webster, 50, who committed suicide. Omalu is the first to identify CTE in American football players.
January 2005 – The NFL’s Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee finds that returning to play after sustaining a concussion “does not involve significant risk of a second injury either in the same game or during the season.”
2005 and 2006 – Dr. Omalu identifies CTE in the brains of former Pittsburgh Steelers players Terry Long and Andre Waters. Both died by suicide.
February 2007 – Dr. Pellman steps down as chairman of the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee but remains a member.
August 14, 2007 – The NFL formalizes new concussion guidelines which include a telephone hotline to report when a player is being forced to play contrary to medical advice.
October 28, 2009 – Part I of the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Legal Issues Relating to Football Head Injuries. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell defends the League’s policy regarding concussions.
January 4, 2010 – Part II of the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Legal Issues Relating to Football Head Injuries. Dr. Ira Casson, one of the co-chairs of the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee, denies a link between repeat head impacts and long-term brain damage.
March 2010 – The NFL’s Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee is renamed the Head, Neck and Spine Committee. Two new co-chairs are selected, and Dr. Pellman is no longer a member of the panel.
October 20, 2010 – Goodell issues a memo to all teams that warns of possible suspensions for “violations of the playing rules that unreasonably put the safety of another player in jeopardy.” He says this “is especially true in the case of hits to the head and neck.”
August 17, 2011 – A class action lawsuit against the NFL over concussion-related injuries is filed by former players. Former Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling is listed as the lead plaintiff. On April 19, 2012, Easterling, 62, dies by suicide. An autopsy finds signs of CTE.
February 17, 2011 – Former Chicago Bears defensive back Dave Duerson, 50, kills himself with a gunshot wound…