Degenerative Brain Disorders Caused by Repetitive Head Trauma
There’s been a lot of press over the past few years about concussions—and with good reason. One recent study found that 87% of professional and amateur football players had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a permanent and degenerative brain disorder believed to be caused by repetitive head trauma. The study looked at autopsies of 111 former NFL players and found that 110 of them had some level of CTE. Research from a number of different sources has linked CTE to dementia and memory loss, mood swings and suicidal behavior.
As a part of the study, researchers examined the brains of 202 individuals who had played football at a number of different levels, from peewee and high school to the National Football League. They also spoke to family members to get additional information about behavior. The findings indicated that the prevalence and severity of CTE increased as involvement in football increased. Individuals who only played peewee and high school had relatively mild cases of CTE, whereas college and professional players had the most severe cases. However, researchers found evidence of mood and behavior abnormalities, as well as cognition problems, in individuals who had played at any level.
Though mood and behavioral challenges were the most common symptom of CTE (89% of those studied exhibited these characteristics), dementia was also a frequent occurrence—85% had been diagnosed with some level of dementia. Cognitive dysfunction was almost universal—95% experienced memory, attention or functional difficulties.
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