Australian Rules Football Confronts C.T.E.

For the first time, researchers have found chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease linked to blows to the head, in a player of Australian rules football.

The disease, which can only be definitively diagnosed after death, was found in Graham Farmer, one of the game’s best players, who died at 84 in August.

The diagnosis, which was detailed in a report in the journal Acta Neuropathologica Communications, was made by doctors at the Australian Sports Brain Bank, run by Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in partnership with the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre.

The finding is significant because for years, leaders of Australian rules football have straddled an uncomfortable fence, talking down the risks of potential long-term brain damage from the sport while also focusing on eliminating head hits and trying to prevent concussions and other traumatic brain injuries.

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