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Entries in CTE (3)

Tuesday
Dec042012

Degenerative Brain Disease Found in 34 Pro Football Players

Stan Grossfeld/The Boston Globe via Getty Images(BOSTON) -- On the heels of the latest NFL suicide, researchers announced Monday that 34 NFL players whose brain were studied suffered from CTE, a degenerative brain disease brought on by repeated hits to the head that results in confusion, depression and, eventually, dementia.

The study was released just days after the murder-suicide of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher. It's not yet known what triggered Belcher's action, but they mirror other NFL players who have committed suicide.

Researchers at Boston University's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy published the largest case series study of CTE to date, according to Boston Medical Center. Of the 85 brains donated by the families of deceased veterans and athletes with histories of repeated head trauma, they found CTE in 68 of them. Of those, 34 were professional football players, nine others played college football and six played only high school football.

Of the 35 professional football players' brains donated, only one had no evidence of the disease, according to the study.

According to the new study, Boston University researchers divided CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, into four stages, the first of which involves headaches and the last of which involves "full-blown dementia." The disease involves brain tissue degeneration and a buildup of an abnormal protein called tao, which is also found in patients with Alzheimer's disease.

Kansas City police say Belcher, 25, shot and killed his girlfriend Saturday morning before going to the team stadium and committing suicide by shooting himself in the head as he was talking to coaches.

Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said Sunday that Belcher was, "a player who had not had a long concussion history," even though he was a three-time all-America wrestler and a star on the football team at his West Babylon, N.Y., high school. It is not yet clear whether his brain will be donated to the study.

However, the Boston University researchers have not yet determined how much brain trauma results in CTE.

"While it remains unknown what level of exposure to brain trauma is required to trigger CTE, there is no available evidence that occasional, isolated or well-managed concussions give rise to CTE," one of the study's co-authors, Dr. Robert Cantu, said in a press release.

It's not yet clear what prompted Belcher's actions, but his suicide closely follows those of former NFL players Junior Seau, 43, and Dave Duerson, 50, both of whom died of self-inflicted gunshot wounds to the chest in the last two years. Duerson's brain is being studied at the Boston University research center, where researchers have already learned that he had CTE.

Seau's brain was donated to a different facility and the results have not been released.

In 2006, former Pittsburgh Steelers player Terry Long killed himself by drinking antifreeze, and former Philadelphia Eagles player Andre Waters shot himself in the head. Both of them suffered from CTE.

CTE has also been found in hockey players, wrestlers and boxers. It's still not possible to diagnose while a person is alive.

Seau's death in May prompted NFL player Jacob Bell to quit the sport altogether, leaving behind his contract with the Cincinnati Bengals.

"We're getting so much money, so much glory, so much fame; we're boosting our egos so much by playing a sport that's violent and could later on risk our lives," Bell said in May.

CTE researchers from Boston University were unavailable, and do not comment on players' deaths until more research is obtainable.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
May252012

Brain Injuries Raise New Concerns for Young Football Players

Thomas Northcut/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- For almost a decade, Jacob Bell was living his dream: making millions playing professional football, starting 100 games for the Tennessee Titans and the St. Louis Rams.

But every season, he took thousands of hits to the head, and he worried about the toll it might be taking on his brain health.  Then came a moment of truth: the suicide of longtime NFL player Junior Seau.

"Seau's death rocked everybody.  It rocked me a lot," Bell said.  "The fact that there is a chance it was football-related and the fact that I was a football player, it hit home with me."

And so he quit the NFL, walking away from a free-agent contract with the Cincinnati Bengals earlier this month.

Bell said his plan now is to act as an advocate for players, alerting them to the dangers of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.  First discovered about a decade ago in the brains of former football players, it's a degenerative disease linked to symptoms like dementia, erratic behavior, and suicide.  The small cadre of doctors who study CTE have diagnosed it in dozens of now-dead NFL players.

The NFL released a statement in February, saying that the league "has long made player safety a priority and continues to take steps to protect players and advance the science and medical understanding of the management and treatment of concussions."  In 2010, the league donated a $1 million grant, no strings attached, to Boston University School of Medicine's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy (CSTE), which researches brain disease in retired football players.

But there is increasing evidence that the way the game is played is leaving a trail of invisible injuries, even among amateur athletes who have never sustained the kind of knock-out concussions often seen on the NFL gridiron.

According to research published in this month's issue of Neurology, a football player could sustain 8,000 hits over the course of a four-year high school and a four-year college career combined.

Owen Thomas is one of the youngest players ever diagnosed with CTE.  It was discovered in his brain after he committed suicide during his senior year at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was the captain of the football team.  He was 21.

Doctors are now on the leading edge of discovering how young players like Thomas -- with no documented history of concussions -- might have damaged their brains.

Researchers call these hits "subconcussive blows" -- moments at which the brain hits the inside of the skull, but not hard enough to sustain what a doctor would diagnose as concussion.

The question now is whether an accumulation of these lesser blows over time could cause brain damage powerful enough to lead to CTE, which has thus far mostly been documented in professional players with a history of concussions.´╗┐

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb212011

Former Chicago Bear Requested Brain Testing Before Suicide

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BOSTON) -- Former Chicago Bears defensive back Dave Duerson, who committed suicide last Thursday, will have his brain matter tested for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) at the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University School of Medicine.

Duerson, 50, was found dead in his Miami home from a gunshot wound to the chest. The former Super Bowl champion had sent text messages to his family requesting that his brain be tested for the disease after his death.

The degenerative brain disease has been linked to repeated head trauma, and it has become more common among football players, some as young as 18 years old.

"Essentially, your brain actually starts falling apart because you've been hit in the head and 10 to 20 years later start getting symptoms, memory problems, emotional problems and eventually it leads to dementia," said Chris Nowinski, co-director of the center.

CTE begins when a protein that's a normal part of the cell becomes toxic and starts slowing down the cell's ability to function.

"It's like a sludge," said Nowinski. "This toxic protein starts a process in the brain, spreads cell to cell. Eventually when you lose enough brain cells these symptoms start to appear."

The disease has also been associated with cognitive problems and, in some cases, depression and loss of impulse control.

Also known as punch drunk syndrome, the disease has been most associated with boxers. However, in recent years it has shown up in professional and college football players, as well as in one pro hockey player.

"Football players are at very high risk because they take, studies show, about a thousand hits to the head," said Nowinki. "One thousand hits is something we've never really done before with athletes, and we're learning it might be too many."

The NFL has attempted to crack down on head injuries in recent years. In 2009, the league created rules for when players could return to the field after suffering blows to the head. Players showing any of several symptoms, even if they remain conscious, must be benched for the rest of that day. They also cannot return to practice or play until cleared by the team physician and an independent neurological consultant.

Later, in August 2010, posters were distributed in locker rooms to warn players that head injuries could have lifelong consequences.

The New York Times reported that Duerson was the first player to request that his brain be examined after his death for CTE, but that as an active member of the players union, he was likely all too aware of the disease. It's been reported that he believed he had the disease in the months before he died.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio´╗┐







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