It's Getting Hard to Be a Football Fan

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But never as hard as it is to be a football player:

Chris Henry, the Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver who died in a traffic accident last year, had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) -- a form of degenerative brain damage caused by multiple hits to the head -- at the time of his death, according to scientists at the Brain Injury Research Institute, a research center affiliated with West Virginia University.

"We would have been very happy if the results had been negative, but multiple areas of Chris Henry's brain showed CTE," said Julian Bailes, director of BIRI and chairman of neurosurgery at West Virginia. Bailes and his colleagues presented results of their forensic examination at a news conference Monday afternoon.

Researchers have now discovered CTE in the brains of more than 50 deceased former athletes, including more than a dozen NFL and college players, pro wrestler Chris Benoit and NHL player Reggie Fleming.

The sample size is still small, but it's not encouraging at all. In the near-term, in contract disputes my sympathies immediately go to the players. People are literally risking their lives.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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