Stronger link found between mild hits and brain disease

Posted on December 12, 2012 by

On behalf of The Law Office of Marvin S. Lanter posted in Brain Injury on Wednesday, December 12, 2012.

We know that taking a series of hard blows to the head, like the ones professional football players get all the time, are not good for the brain in the long run. Some new research found that even mild, “routine” head injuries can, over time, can result in memory loss, depression, and even dementia. The researchers looked at post-mortem brain tissue samples from soldiers, professional athletes, high school and college athletes who died recently – 85 people in all – and found evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (C.T.E.) in 68 of them. C.T.E. is a degenerative and incurable condition that causes long-term cognitive impairment in its victims.

The first thing that must be said is, this study does not conclusively link head injuries on the playing field or battlefield with C.T.E. Some head injury patients never develop C.T.E. while others do. Proving a conclusive link would mean finding people who have it, and then using imaging and other medical tests to track its progression. That is not easy to do. Rather, the experts see their findings as another link in the chain of causation from head trauma to long-term brain damage

C.T.E. has four stages. Stage 1 patients complain of headaches and loss of concentration. Stage 2 patients experience short-term memory loss, depression and explosive behavioral outbursts. Stage 3 sufferers, like Chicago Bears defensive back Dave Duerson who committed suicide last year, have great difficulty planning and organizing, along with significant cognitive impairment. Finally, in Stage 4, sufferers become demented, aggressive, and have trouble finding the right words when speaking.

For the parents who are planning to pull their kids out of all contact sports in light of this new information, hang on a minute. Study co-author Robert Cantu says, “All concussions are not created equal.” He says the total amount of head trauma received, and the way those injuries were treated, must be evaluated to determine if a person is at risk of C.T.E. “Parents have become paranoid about concussions and connecting the dots with C.T.E. and that’s wrong,” he warns. “The dots are really about total head trauma.”

Source: The New York Times, “Study bolsters link between routine hits to head and long-term brain disease,” Ken Belson, Dec. 3, 2012

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