Hits Linked to CTE

January 19, 2018

A new study by Boston University researchers, which was published in Brain, has linked hits to the head, rather than concussions, to the onset of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

According to The Buffalo News, Dr. Lee Goldstein, an associate professor at Boston University School of Medicine and College of Engineering, and a corresponding author of the study, said that many people who had studied CTE were focusing too much on concussions, since “It’s really the hit that counts.” He said the study is the first one that has produced solid evidence from controlled experiments to support this conclusion.

“My analogy for this is it’s like having health officials focus on the hacking cough in smokers rather than the lung cancer,” Goldstein said. “A cough can be related to smoking — there can be many other causes of a cough. But the fact that you have or do not have a cough is irrelevant to whether you have cigarette-caused lung cancer. . . . It’s the same with chest pain and a heart attack. We would no more rely on chest pain to be the single indicator of whether you’ve had a heart attack."

Goldstein said that taking another hit to the head while a previous injury is still healing can be devastating, even if the first hit was not a concussion.

“There are many players who are hit, who are hurt and who aren’t getting help because it’s clear that they’re not at the level of concussion,” he said. “Their brains are not in good shape and they go on to the next hit and the next one.”

Goldstein said that many people are at risk of CTE, even if they don't necessarily suffer concussions.

“There are many vulnerable populations at greatly increased risk of repetitive head injury including domestic abuse, incarcerated populations, homeless,” Goldstein said. “It’s a big problem for the NFL, a bigger problem for amateur athletics and an even larger problem still for the greater public.”

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