New data collected by the Concussion Legacy Foundation shows that the SEC has more former players who have been diagnosed with CTE than any other Power 5 conference, but that does not necessarily mean the league does a worse job of handling concussions.
The study found that players from over 100 different college football programs have developed chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease resulting from repetitive head trauma. Eleven of those programs compete in the SEC, more than any other Power 5 conference.
The league has 28 former players who have been diagnosed with CTE, which is also the highest among the Power 5.
Four SEC programs have had at least three former players diagnosed: Georgia (6), Arkansas (4), Auburn (4) and Alabama (3). One of the most famous cases is former Crimson Tide QB Ken Stabler, who died of colon cancer July 8, 2015.
The foundation is careful to note that a higher number of diagnoses does not necessarily mean that playing in a particular conference or for a particular program is more dangerous. Instead, it demonstrates “the widespread reach of this disease, and the commitment by the alumni and their families of these schools to support CTE research by participating in brain donation.”
The study found that “91 percent of football players (138 out of 152) studied at the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank who played in college have been diagnosed with CTE.” Of that group, “almost two-thirds” had gone on to play professionally.