The Science

As of October 2018, there have been 333 articles on CTE in the New York Times. That’s more articles on CTE in one newspaper than there have been confirmed cases. If you were to read any one of those stories, you’d find a dark and foreboding depiction of football, rather than a critical look at the science threatening it. Hype is outrunning the facts. Brainwashed asks the tough questions and demands better science and objective reporting. Below are just some of the scientific papers so often misrepresented and overlooked in today’s press coverage.

Scientific Papers Misrepresented by the Media

Age of first exposure to football and later-life cognitive impairment in former NFL players

“There is an association between participation in tackle football prior to age 12 and greater later-life cognitive impairment measured using objective neuropsychological tests. These findings suggest that incurring repeated head impacts during a critical neurodevelopment period may increase the risk of later-life cognitive impairment. If replicated with larger samples and longitudinal designs, these findings may have implications for safety recommendations for youth sports.”

“Due to the inclusion of only former NFL players, the results of this study may not apply to former football players whose highest level of play was only the youth, high school, or college level.”

Age of first exposure to American football and long-term neuropsychiatric and cognitive outcomes

“Findings from the current study should not be used to inform safety and/or policy decisions in regards to youth football. Any decisions regarding reducing or eliminating youth football must be made with the understanding of the important health and psychosocial benefits of participating in athletics and team sports during pre-adolescence.”

Clinicopathological Evaluation of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in Players of American Football

“Caution must be used in interpreting the high frequency of CTE in this sample, and estimates of prevalence cannot be concluded or implied from this sample.”

Overlooked Scientific Papers You Should Know

Subconcussive head impacts in sport: A systematic review of the evidence.

“Subconcussion is often inconsistently used, poorly defined, and misleading in the current research. As a result of the weakness of the current body of research, the overall finding of the review stated there was insufficient evidence to conclude that repetitive head impacts are associated with neurocognitive impairment.”

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy-like Neuropathological Findings Without a History of Trauma

“Evidence reviewed predominantly from studies of male athletes in contact and collision sports identifies that repetitive hits to the head are associated with microstructural and functional changes in the brain. Whether these changes represent injury is unclear. We determined the term 'subconcussion' to be inconsistently used, poorly defined, and misleading. Future research is needed to characterize the phenomenon in question.”

Is phosphorylated tau unique to chronic traumatic encephalopathy? Phosphorylated tau in epileptic brain and chronic traumatic encephalopathy

“Although CTE has been found only in patients with a history of head trauma thus far, our case potentially highlights the complexity in the pathogenesis of this disorder.”

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy-Like Abnormalities in a Routine Neuropathology Service.

“We conclude that CTE-like findings are not confined to professional athletes; the risk factors of head injury and substance abuse are similar in the routine population. However, the significance of very small hyperphosphorylated tau deposits remains to be determined. In addition, the absence of typical CTE-like deposits near contusion sites keeps open the question of pathogenesis.”

Participation in Pre–High School Football and Neurological, Neuroradiological, and Neuropsychological Findings in Later Life

“The current study failed to replicate the results of a prior study, which concluded that an earlier AFE to tackle football might result in long-term neurocognitive deficits. In 45 retired NFL athletes, there were no associations between PreYOE and neuroradiological, neurological, and neuropsychological outcome measures.”

Brainwashed Blog


Welcome to the Brainwashed blog. The book’s introduction follows. Please read, share, and tell us what you think.

Back in 1994, I died for a few seconds.

It was my eighth season in the NFL. I was sitting on the training table in the Chicago Bears’ locker room when I …

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Brainwashed Podcast

Episode 1
Why Merril did the book BRAINWASHED
aired 10/1/18

Episode 3
Merril Hoge with Dr Cummings & Dr Castellani about Todd Ewen
aired 12/12/18

Episode 4
Merril Hoge Find A Way Podcast with Dr, Peter Cumminngs and Katie Detmer (Stop Blaming CTE)
aired 12/12/18

Episode 5
Merril Hoge with Dr, Peter Cumminngs(Consensus Panel)
aired 1/28/19

Things To Know About CTE

  1. To date, rigorous scientific research tells us only that CTE leaves deposits of perivascular tau in the folds of the brain. It does not reveal conclusively what causes tau deposits to form or what clinical symptoms, if any, they cause.
  2. CTE’s true prevalence is unknown.
  3. The role of genetics, mental illness, and other disease processes in the symptoms currently labeled as CTE is unknown.
  4. The causal connection between brain trauma and brain pathology is unknown.
  5. The association between brain pathology and mood, cognitive, or behavioral symptoms is unknown.
  6. There is no evidence CTE causes any mood, behavior, or cognitive disorders; many neuropsychiatric conditions associated with CTE are also associated with other, more common neurodegenerative diseases.
  7. The role of preexisting mental health issues in clinical symptoms currently assumed to be caused by CTE is unexplored.
  8. Clinical and pathological staging of CTE has not been validated by the scientific community; “stage I CTE” is very likely a normal brain, not a diseased brain.
  9. There is substantial evidence to suggest that CTE is caused by chronic inflammation.
  10. All the brains in the infamous “110 out of 111” brains case were from players whose families reported that they had mental problems; there was no control group.
  11. There is no agreed-upon definition of a subconcussive impact (SCI), so it is not a scientific concept.
  12. There is no evidence that early childhood exposure to tackle football leads to neuropsychiatric problems later in life.
  13. There is no evidence that CTE causes suicide.

Questions to Ask Your Youth Football League

  1. Do you have a head-trauma protocol? What is it?
  2. How many days a week do you practice? (Note: My teams practiced three days a week until games started, and then we practiced two times a week, including the game.)
  3. Do you know the proper way to fit helmets and shoulder pads?
  4. How much live contact do you do in a typical week?
  5. Do you adhere to Heads Up guidelines?
  6. Do your games have a safety official or certified athletic trainer present?
  7. How are your coaches trained and background-checked?
  8. Are your coaches trained to detect symptoms of head trauma?
  9. How do you match up kids during practice? Based on size?
  10. How do you go about getting all kids in the game?

Merril & Pete Videos

Welcome to

The History Behind Brainwashed

CTE: Facts, Fiction, and How to Keep Your Kids Safe

Other Videos

To learn more about concussions, the latest treatment protocols, prevention, and CTE research, check out the following.

What Is A Concussion?

Concussion Treatment

Merril Hoge Explains The Proper Helmet Fit

When Is Someone Recovered From Concussion?