CTE Triggered By Hits To Head, Not Just Concussions

Kristen Gonzales
January 20, 2018

Head injuries - not concussions - cause chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease most commonly associated with National Football League players, a new study says.

And a separate study of recently deceased athletes in Boston suggests that repeated impacts may trigger changes in the brain, that trigger CTE.

The team examined the brains of four dead teenage athletes who'd suffered head injuries 1, 2, 10, and 128 days before they died.

"The same brain pathology that we observed in teenagers after head injury was also present in head-injured mice", says Lee Goldstein, an associate professor of psychiatry at Boston University's School of Medicine, and study co-author. Brains from four control-matched athletes without recent head injury did not show such pathology.

CTE is a known condition among professional football players and military veterans and those who have been exposed to bomb blasts etc. Despite the brains not suffering more severe injury, they still showed signs consistent with early-stage CTE, including an abnormal accumulation of tau protein. The top-notch researcher says his findings might explain why "approximately 20 percent of athletes with CTE never suffered a diagnosed concussion". "The only correlation we saw was with the hit itself". What's more, they found strong evidence linking head injuries to early CTE that is unrelated or independent of concussion.

Right now CTE can only be diagnosed after someone's death. "That's critical. But there's two different issues going on - one is concussion, which is by definition a temporary problem". Until now, the focus was on any concussions they received.

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"There must be a reduction in the number of head impacts", she said in a statement. Goldstein said that while the new work advanced understanding of the mechanisms underlying CTE, it's not clear how frequently people experience these types of changes in the brain.

Studies have suggested before that CTE and concussions might not be linked as tightly as we thought, but Goldstein's research is the best evidence that the medical community has seen so far. He said that witnessing how CTE ravaged his teammate and friend Ken Stabler is causing him to speak out about the dangers of tackle football for children under 14.

CTE is a neurodegenerative disease, which causes the tau protein to accumulate in small blood vessels in the brain. "I ran a company because of football", Buoniconti said.

But with these new findings, lead author Dr.

It's been obvious to many experts for a while now that young, developing brains should be shielded from the sort of contact that tackle football requires, but this codified effort is still needed.

"The NFL is setting a bad example by focusing on the concussion and while not focusing on the hits", said Goldstein. But, he remains optimistic for the future of football.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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