CHARLOTTE (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – On the football field, players are either giving hits or taking them.  For players, those hits can add up.

“Anything that we can do to lower the impact to a player’s brain is important to do,”  Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said.

Over the years, more reports of football players developing CTE have surfaced. CTE is a brain disease that can cause a variety of symptoms from memory loss to aggression and progressive dementia.

“To date, the best measure that we have for these repetitive head impacts is the duration of play, total year of play of football,” Behavioral Neurologist at Boston University Jesse Mez said.

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A team of Boston scientists, including Mez, studied the donated brains of 631 former American football players.  Their research found that it is not only the total number of hits over that predicts who is more likely to develop the brain disease, but also the intensity of the hits.

“I think this particular study was really exciting about it is it can offer new insights for us that may help identify new ways to protect the brain of athletes at all levels,” CEO of the Western Carolina Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association Katherine Lambert said.

Wednesday, she attended the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, one of the largest and most influential gatherings dedicated to advancing dementia science.

She says the study also helps understand the association between CTE and the development of dementia. 

According to the association, about 180,000 North Carolinians are living with Alzheimer’s dementia.  That number is expected to grow.

“Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are not a part of normal aging, it is a disease,” Lambert said.

Teams across the NFL including the Carolina Panthers are adding their own protections.

This pre-season, the use of guardian caps is mandatory for certain players.  The new protective headgear is supposed to reduce the severity of impact when worn.

“We’ve had no push back and I think it has been very beneficial for us,” Rhule said.

Mez says the best way to lessen the chances of developing CTE is to reduce the number of practices and games.