Aug 30, 2023BU study suggests CTE may strike at younger ages
New research from Boston University on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) suggests the degenerative brain disease may strike at younger ages than previously thought.
The troubling finding was discovered during the brain autopsies of 152 athletes. All had engaged in the type of sports, such as football, where head impacts are routine. And all had died before turning 30.
Investigators determined that roughly 4 in 10 had developed early signs of CTE while still in their teens and 20s. And the vast majority of those with CTE — more than 70% — were just young amateurs, not professional players.
A recent story from HealthDay News detailed the findings from Boston University’s CTE study. Below is an excerpt from the HealthDay News story.
“CTE is a neurodegenerative disease caused by repetitive hits to the head that has been found most often in contact sport athletes,” explained study author Dr. Ann McKee. She is a professor of neurology and pathology at Boston University and director of neuropathology care with the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System.
But while most research has focused on the risk of brain damage among professional athletes, the latest analysis reveals “that CTE can begin very early, as early as 17 years, and that it can develop in amateur soccer, rugby, ice hockey and football players, and amateur wrestlers,” McKee stressed.
That comes as little surprise to Dr. Daniel Daneshvar, chief of the division of brain injury rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
“The findings are striking, because evidence of other neurodegenerative diseases is not found in individuals this young,” noted Daneshvar, who was not part of the study team.
But “a hit to the head has the same risk of damage, whether or not you’re getting paid,” he added.
Because CTE can only be definitively diagnosed during a brain autopsy, McKee’s analysis focused on deceased athletes who had donated their brains to BU’s “UNITE Brain Bank.” The bank holds the world’s largest collection of nervous system tissue samples, drawn from deceased athletes for the express purpose of studying traumatic brain injury and CTE.
Most of the athletes (93%) were male and about three-quarters were white. All had died at some point between 2008 and 2022 before turning 30, at an average age of 23.
The vast majority (nearly 6 in 10) had died by suicide. Almost 15% had died due to an accidental overdose, while about 1 in 10 had succumbed to an injury.
To read the full story from HealthDay News, click here.