According to a groundbreaking study, amateur male athletes who participate in contact sports in West Virginia and nationwide are more likely to develop a degenerative brain injury called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. The research, which was published in Acta Neuropathological in December 2015, was conducted by Minnesota's Mayo Clinic.
CTE, which can only be posthumously identified, is a progressive degenerative brain disease characterized by mood disorders, memory problems and declines in cognitive function. It is most commonly found in athletes who experience repeated blows to the head, such as boxers and football players. Previous studies had found that may deceased NFL football players had evidence of CTE pathology in their brains. However, the new study is the first to investigate whether non-professional athletes also suffer high rates of CTE. Mayo Clinic researchers examined 1,700 case histories from the institution's brain bank to find people who had played amateur contact sports, choosing 198 brain specimens. They found that of 66 males who had participated in contact sports in high school or college, 32 percent of them showed signs of CTE in their brain tissue. Meanwhile, none of the brains of people who had not participated in contact sports had CTE.
The authors of the study said that CTE is rarely found in the general U.S. population, so the fact that the disorder was found in 32 percent of males who played contact sports is striking. They urge athletes to do more to protect themselves from sports-related head injuries, particularly repetitive blows to the head.
Repetitive head injuries can cause permanent brain damage, which may develop slowly over time, but a sudden injury, such as one resulting from a car accident or fall, can cause it as well. A victim of a brain injury that resulted from the negligent act of another person may want to have the assistance of an attorney in filing a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault that would seek compensation for medical expenses and other applicable damages.