In less than a week, the National Football League will hold its draft, where 32 teams will select new players. This year, however, will take place in the wake of a raft of early retirements which many commentators have linked to growing concerns about the toll football is taking on players' bodies.
Even more troubling, each year comes with more questions about the brain health of former players after they leave the game. Last fall, a Boston University (BU) study found 90 out of 94 deceased former NFL players had brains that showed evidence of brain disease.
It's called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative brain disease found in individuals with a history of repetitive brain trauma—including concussions. In the 2015-2016 season, NFL data showed a 58 percent surge in reported concussions, despite cracking down on player safety and rolling out new rules to prevent injuries. Last week, a federal judge upheld the league's $1 billion settlement with former players who sustained concussion-related injuries during their active years.
However, it's not just concussions, Dr. Ann McKee, director of the BU CTE Center that studies the impact of head trauma and concussions, explained to CNBC's "On the Money." The center has received donations from the National Football League to conduct the research.
Rather, it's the "repetitive trauma…minor trauma found in every play of the game, routinely," McKee tells CNBC in an interview. "Over time, years of exposure to…mild head trauma in some individuals leads to this progressive deterioration that usually shows up years later."