As concerns mount over the inherent dangers of head injuries in contact sports, researchers at Boston University have released the most extensive examination to date of deceased athletes’ brains. Evidence links repeat concussions to permanent brain injury
Published by Boston University School of Medicine researchers, the four-year study examined brain autopsies of 85 male donors ranging from age 17 to 98, including football players at various levels, boxers, hockey players and a group of veterans.
The study — which demonstrated that most had signs of brain damage after suffering repeated head injuries — provides startling new insight into an Alzheimer’s-like condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease thought to be caused by repeat concussions or blows to the head. Brain Disease in Pro Football Players
The condition, which causes depression and erratic behavior, has attracted public concern in recent years following the high-profile suicides of former professional athletes. Contact sports and brain injuries
The new study described four stages of the disease, noting that symptoms can progress for years after head trauma. Symptoms of stage one CTE include headache and loss of attention. Stage two sufferers may face depression, outbursts of anger and short-term memory loss. Those in stage three encounter dysfunction and cognitive impairment. Symptoms of the most severe fourth stage include dementia, aggression and difficulty finding words.
Ironically, the study was released on the heels of the tragic murder-suicide of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher. It’s not yet known what triggered Belcher’s action, but it mirrors other NFL players who have committed suicide, among them Junior Seau in May, Ray Easterling in April and Dave Duerson last year.