A study released by The Journal of the American Medical Association on Tuesday showed 99% of deceased former NFL players studied had evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, also known as CTE.
The condition is linked to repeated blows to the head and symptoms include memory loss, confusion, depression, and dementia.
Hours after the report was released, a metro coach said the findings showed the importance of keeping players safe on the field.
“Our player's health and safety have to be first and foremost,” explained Harrisonville High School head football coach Brent Maxwell. “(CTE) is something that's astonishing and something we need to pay attention to and need to be aware of."
The metro tragically knows all too well about the impact CTE can have on people.
In 2013, 25-year-old former Harrisonville standout student athlete Michael Keck died after suffering from CTE and years of multiple concussions after continuing his playing career at Missouri and Missouri State.
“When I first came here in 2006, Michael Keck was an outstanding football player,” explained Maxwell, who has coached at the school for the last 12 years and won a state title last season. “He was a star here not only on the football field but in the classroom and in the community."
Keck’s death occurred three years after 17-year-old Spring Hill student athlete Nathan Stiles died weeks after suffering a concussion.
The deaths of the two boys, as well as the rise in awareness of head injuries in sports, have led to changes at schools like Harrisonville.
Maxwell said players practice proper tackling techniques every day during the season in the hopes they will use what they learn in games.
“That way, when it comes to game situations and they don't have time to think, it's just instinct,” he explained.
Maxwell said coaches also attend CTE workshops throughout the year to learn more about the condition.
“We can't control everything but we like to control the things that we can,” he explained. “Preparation is one of the big keys there."
Maxwell told 41 Action News that Keck’s grandmother recently spoke to multiple teams during a summer football camp in June at Staley High School about the impact CTE can have on a family.
Parents, like Randy McCleave, said they supported the extra safety measures at metro schools.
“It's a dangerous sport but you can't live your life in a padded room either,” said McCleave, whose son plays at Harrisonville High School.
Moving forward, Maxwell said parents should raise their own awareness about CTE when making a decision about whether or not to allow their child to play football.
“I truly do believe football helps mold young boys into men,” he explained. “You have to weigh those risks and see if the pros outweigh the cons."