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20 January 2018, 04:05 | Rex Hubbard
Study: Hits, not concussions, cause brain disease
A game-changing study shows smaller repetitive hits to the head - not just concussions - may cause CTE, the degenerative brain disease notoriously plaguing a number of former National Football League stars. His new paper has shown the same is true for head hits in sports. The disease also affects military veterans who suffered brain injuries since September 11, 2001. Within 24 hours of the head injury and death due to the injury, the scientists could detect the changes in the brain that could indicate CTE. And researchers captured what appeared to be the earliest moments of CTE in many mice that showed few if any immediate symptoms.
CTE is a neurodegenerative disease, which causes the tau protein to accumulate in small blood vessels in the brain. Using animal models and computer modeling, Goldstein and his partners were able to see progression of the disease, finding that as tau built up, it began to work its way through the brain.
Previously, researchers who studied mice realized that the impacts that caused concussion and those that led to CTE had different effects on the brain.
In their study, researchers examined four post-mortem brains from teenage athletes who had sustained head injuries prior to their death and four teenage athletes without recent head injuries.
"We see the hard hits all the time, where a guy pops up and smiles and [signals] a first down, and [we think], 'OK, that hit was fine.' But what this study says is: No, that hit probably wasn't fine, and that poor guy can't feel the damage that's happening in his brain right now".
Taken together, this body of evidence suggests that early CTE may result from leaky blood vessels in the brain. Lee Goldstein, who is with Boston University. "And that's important, because what it means is for say the people who love football, which is, American football, which is mostly everybody, that concussion protocols may be insufficient to protect the athletes", said Moss.
The researchers argue that their findings published in the journal Brain provide a strong causal evidence that links head impacts to both traumatic brain injury and early CTE, "independent of concussion".
"There must be a reduction in the number of head impacts", McKee said in a statement. "[With] all of these people, we need to take the focus off concussion and find out if they have injured brains", Goldstein said, in an interview with NPR.
"I did not play tackle football until high school, I will not allow my grandson to play until 14, as I believe it is not an appropriate sport for young children", Carson said.
Goldstein said parents should heed the warning that CTE can develop early - and the focus on concussions doesn't reduce the risk.
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