BU brain study links head trauma to brain disease

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December 4, 2012, 7:47 am
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(NECN) - A new study by Boston University has given more evidence of the link between head trauma and degenerative brain disease.

The study, which included brain samples taken posthumously from 85 people who had histories of repeated mild traumatic brain injury, added to the mounting body of research revealing the possible consequences of routine hits to the head in sports like football and hockey.

The study took four years to complete and included subjects that had been between the ages of 17 and 98.

Dr. Robert Cantu, Co-Author of the study and Co-Director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at BU, joined "The Morning Show" to discuss the recent study.

Here are some more facts about the study:

- The study included brain samples taken posthumously from 85 people who had histories of repeated mild traumatic brain injury.

- Of the group of 85 people, 80 percent (68 men) - nearly all of whom played sports - showed evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., a degenerative and incurable disease whose symptoms can include memory loss, depression and dementia.

- Among the group found to have C.T.E., 50 were football players, including 33 who played in the N.F.L. Many of the players were linemen and running backs, positions that tend to have more contact with opponents.

- Six high school football players, nine college football players, seven pro boxers and four N.H.L. players also showed signs of C.T.E. The study also included 21 veterans, most of whom were also athletes, who showed signs of C.T.E.

- The investigators also created a four-tiered system to classify degrees of C.T.E., hoping it would help doctors treat patients.
---Stage 1: headaches and loss of attention and concentration
---Stage 2: depression, explosive behavior and short-term memory loss.
---Stage 3: cognitive impairment and trouble with executive functions like planning and organizing (Includes Duerson, a former all-pro defensive back for the Chicago Bears who killed himself last year).
---Stage 4: dementia, difficulty finding words and aggression.

- The study does NOT:
---Prove definitively that head injuries sustained on the field caused C.T.E.
---Determine why some athletes who performed in the same conditions did not develop C.T.E.
---Demonstrate what percentage of professional football players were likely to develop C.T.E.

Tags: Boston University, BU, athletes, brain disease, brain study, the morning show, head injuries, study of traumatic encephalopathy, Dr. Robert Cantu
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