New study could change how brain disease CTE is detected in athletes

Tim and Donovan talk about the effect the most recent study on CTE will have on the NFL and whether parents will think twice about letting their kids play football.

A new study from the Boston University School of Medicine and the VA Boston Healthcare System could change the way Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is detected.

CTE, the degenerative brain disease associated with people who suffer repeated head trauma, is currently only detectable post-mortem. The study, which was published in the medical journal PLOS ONE on Tuesday, tested tissue from the brains of 23 deceased American football players verified to have CTE, plus 50 brains diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and researchers used 18 non-athlete brains as a control in the study.

The results found that brains diagnosed with CTE had levels of the protein CCL11 that were “significantly increased” in the dorsolateral frontal cortex compared to the non-athlete brains and the brains affected by Alzheimer’s. Also, there was a correlation between the amount of CCL11 found and the length in which a player played football.

“A significant increase in CCL11 levels was observed in individuals with CTE and 16 years or more exposure to football compared to controls with no exposure to sports and individuals with CTE and less than 16 years exposure,” the study read. “Furthermore when looking only at individuals with CTE, multiple linear regression analysis demonstrated that CCL11 levels were significantly predicted by the number of years of exposure to football independent of age.”

Interestingly enough, the study concluded “the number of reported concussions were not able to predict CCL11 levels.”

The results provide some hope that there will one day a way to diagnose and treat CTE in living patients, many of whom will happen to be professional athletes.

A report from The Journal of the American Medical Association in July revealed a shockingly high percentage of deceased former football players—professional, collegiate, semi-pro and high school players—whose brains were studied were found to have CTE.

Some symptoms of CTE, according to the Mayo Clinic, include cognitive impairment, impulsive behaviour, depression, short-term memory loss, emotional instability, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts or behaviour.

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