Published: Fri, January 19, 2018
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

Hits to Head, Not Concussions, Cause CTE

Hits to Head, Not Concussions, Cause CTE

A study by researchers at Boston University, published on Thursday, is leading to greater concerns about chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, and what causes it.

Scientists studied mice models as well as the brains of four teenage athletes and found that repetitive hits to the head, even if they don't cause symptoms of a concussion, can lead to significant brain damage over time.

The conversation surrounding CTE has primarily focused on the role concussions play in the accumulation of the tau protein in blood vessels in the brain, which can cause cell death, dementia and cognitive impairments.

The study examined the brains of four athletes, ages 17 and 18 years old, after receiving a sports-related head injury. "I think there should be a warning notice - by the Centers for Disease Control or the Surgeon General - to issue a warning to parents whenever they fill out a consent form for kids to play football". "Now we have both the scientific proof, the pathologies to support it, and all the evidence to show that concussion is not linked to long-term neurological disease", said Dr.

These abnormally high protein build-ups surprised the researchers because the test subjects had not sustained concussion but rather only minor head injuries prior to their death.

The new findings shocked researchers, but they mirror what athletes see on a regular basis, said Chris Nowinski, a former pro wrestler and CEO of Boston-based Concussion Legacy Foundation.

"We should be paying attention to all hits", he said. In all four brains, there were already changes to the brain that could be indicators of CTE, including leaky blood vessels and abnormal buildups of the protein tau.


Results revealed biological evidence of CTE in the brains of the young adults.

"It provides solid evidence for what football players have known: The hit that causes the concussion symptoms isn't much different than the hit you swear you're fine from", Nowinski said.

Such a study could have far-reaching implications in sports-for professionals, children and parents-and for medicine as it grapples with properly treating brain injury.

The results may explain why approximately 20 percent of athletes who were found to have CTE after they died had never received a concussion diagnosis when they were alive, Goldstein said.

Buoniconti appeared at the news conference with fellow Hall of Famer Harry Carson of the Giants and Phil Villapiano of the Raiders. "We can not overstate the absurdity of allowing 7-year-olds to receive 500 head impacts a season just because they happen to be getting exercise at the time".

"Football has been open season on your child's head from the time they're allowed to play", said Nowinski, who was an award-winning defensive tackle during his college days at Harvard. "Youth tackle football is all risk with no reward". But, he remains optimistic for the future of football.

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