ATLANTA -- As the NFL season begins, so does a new wave of discussion about the long-term effects to the brain faced by NFL players.
It stems from a new study in the journal Neurology, which says long-time pro football players are three times as likely to die of brain-related causes and four times as likely to die of ALS or Alzheimer's.
"I think it makes very good sense to look at concussions," says study author Dr. Everett J. Lehman. "That is the working hypothesis behind all this."
The study came out the same day the NFL season began -- also a day where NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced the donation of $30 million for brain-related research. It follows a tumultuous off-season, where two former players committed suicide: San Diego Chargers icon Junior Seau and one-time Atlanta Falcon Ray Easterling.
"The last words I said to my friend were, '[Living with pain] beats the alternative,'" said Dewey McClain, who played on the Falcons with Easterling in the late 1970's.
"The fact of it is," McClain continued, "[brain trauma] is real. And now you're finding out that Ray did have CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy)."
McClain is one of thousands of former players filing a lawsuit against the league regarding long-term damages due to concussions and brain injuries. As for current players, we spoke with several Atlanta Falcons about whether they pay heed to the study.
"I think I'd be a fool, or anyone else in the league, not to pay attention to those studies," said tight end Tony Gonzalez.
Said lineman Todd McClure, "I don't think you can think about it when you're on the field, but when you sit and reflect a little bit."
Linebacker Mike Peterson said, "I don't want to say we signed up for this, but we're in it now."