Former NFL player weighs in on new study linking CTE to repeated hits to head

A new study shows repeated hits to the head and not necessarily concussions are to blame for the chronic brain damage known as CTE. Former NFL player and Rochester native Roland Williams - who is no stranger to hard hits - weighs in on the study. (WHAM photo)

Rochester, N.Y. (WHAM) - Former NFL player and Rochester native Roland Williams has taken a lot of hits to the head during his time on the field.

"It is a violent game,” said Williams. “It is one that requires a lot of contact."

Hard contact from collision sports can often lead to concussions, which many researchers believe is the main cause of the degenerative brain disease CTE.

A new study from Boston University, however disputes that theory.

Researchers there found CTE isn't necessarily directly related to a concussion, but repetitive hits to the head.

Williams said it's a wakeup call for the NFL.

"I think the NFL and other sports are starting to adjust and make sure the game can survive the bigger, faster, stronger athlete," he said.

Local neurosurgeon with Rochester Regional Health, Dr. Anthony Petraglia, said the link between CTE and numerous hits to the head has been known to physicians for several years.

If anything, he said the study brings a greater awareness to the public.

“This is not just about concussions,” said Petraglia. “It's about head injury exposure in general. I just think we need to be cautious about how much head impact exposure our athletes are sustaining."

According to Petraglia, children should be extra cautious when playing contact sports.

"I think limiting the amount of head impact exposure, especially in our youth athletes while the brain is maturing is important," he said.

As for Williams, he said he knew about the risks when he was drafted for the NFL, but said he wouldn't give up those experiences on the field.

"If I knew what I knew back then, I still would have signed up, gladly to play the game of football,” he said. “I love this game with all my heart."

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