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December 14, 2012

Costly hits: new findings link head trauma to CTE

by: Donald A. Migliori

As the 2012 football season comes to a close, I, along with millions of other Americans, will suddenly find myself counting down the days until the cleats hit the field again next September and we can once again cheer on our favorite football teams. Whether gathering on Friday nights for high school football games, Saturday nights for college football games, or Sunday and Monday nights for NFL games, Americans love football.

From the collective smash of helmets and the grunts of tackled players to the cheers following a touchdown, these are the sounds that have categorized the sport for decades. However, these very sounds are starting to define generations of players who have made sacrifices as a result of their often successful and celebrated time on the field.

To many fans, the sound of helmets and bodies colliding after a tackle is regarded as commonplace and even esteemed, by some, in the sport of football. To investigators at Boston University, it means an increased risk of C.T.E. or chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Recent findings published in the scientific journal Brain concluded that there is growing evidence linking head trauma from sports such as football and hockey to long-term degenerative brain diseases like C.T.E. According to The New York Times, the study “took four years to complete, included subjects 17 to 98 years old, and more than doubled the number of documented cases of C.T.E.”

C.T.E is a degenerative and incurable disease that was broken down into four stages of severity in the study. Stage 1 includes headaches, loss of concentration and decreased attention span, while Stage 2 includes depression, short-term memory loss and changes in behavior. Stage 3 includes decreased cognitive function and executive dysfunction, and Stage 4 includes dementia and aggression and can be mistaken for Alzheimer’s disease. (Gavett et al., 2010, 2011)

Injuries that football players sustain on the field, such as the mild traumatic brain injuries we discussed in a previous blog post, may cause C.T.E., and the evidence linking traumatic brain injuries is mounting and should not be ignored.

While I, along with other Motley Rice attorneys continue to investigate these findings, it is important that we not forget football stars like David Duerson, Cookie Gilchrist and John Mackey and their families. It is only with their contributions to research such as this recent study that scientists can help us understand the dangers of concussions and develop safer ways for future athletes to enjoy their favorite games without having to potentially suffer later in life.