Ann McKee, a professor at the Boston University School of Medicine and the director of BU’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center, was named the 2017 Bostonian of the Year by The Boston Globe on Wednesday for her important contributions to CTE research.
McKee and her team of researchers found patterns of CTE, a neurodegenerative disease, in the brains of several deceased NFL players in 2008.
Since then, according to the Globe’s article, McKee and her team at the CTE Center have found CTE in the brains of hundreds of former athletes. Of the 111 brains of ex-NFL players McKee’s team analyzed, 110 had CTE.
Some of McKee’s most notable achievements this year included finding a CTE biomarker, researching the long-term clinical effects of injuries from youth football, and identifying CTE in the brain of former New England Patriots tight end and convicted murderer, Aaron Hernandez.
According to the article, McKee’s research has helped show that concussions are not a primary triggering factor for CTE. Rather, repeated subconcussive blows to the head are the real culprit for the disease, which can cause depression, mood swings and irrational behavior.
“We’ve been learning a lot about how this disease starts in the brain, how it spreads throughout the brain, and we’re learning, in particular, how to diagnose this disease during life,” McKee said. “Of course that’s one of our major goals.”
McKee is now being recognized for “her skill and relentlessness in pursuing research that is forcing us to confront hard truths most of us would rather avoid,” according to the article.
McKee said the Globe’s recognition is meaningful in that it underscores the importance of the work she and her team have been doing at the center.
“I’m tremendously honored to receive this award,” McKee said. “It’s a validation of all my team’s hard work on the long-term effects of trauma and CTE. We’ve been working hard and persistently for the last 10 years, and to receive this award just feels so exciting.”
BU spokesperson Colin Riley said McKee’s recognition speaks to the importance of her research.
“It’s great for a Boston University faculty member and their research to be recognized in this way, but I think it goes far beyond that,” Riley said. “It speaks to her and the issues that she studies and what that means for society at large.”