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Monday, October 14, 2013

What we know about football and repetitive brain trauma

Today's post was shared by Mother Jones and comes from

CTE brain scans
Brain tissue images, with tau protein in brown. The brain on the left is from a normal subject, the brain in the middle is from a former football player, and the brain on the right is from a former boxer.Courtesy of the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy.
League of Denial, a PBS Frontline documentary about the NFL's response (or lack thereof) to concussions and long-term brain injuries among its players, airs tonight. The investigation attempts to hash out what the league really knew about player safety while it downplayed the ill effects the sport has on its athletes. But what exactly are those effects, and what about them made thousands of former players sue the NFL over their injuries?
While the symptoms of a concussion—dizziness, vomiting, memory loss—can be felt immediately, the long-term impacts of repeated brain trauma have been harder to study. Research points to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, as one of the major outcomes. CTE is caused by a buildup of tau, a protein that strangles brain cells and degenerates brain tissue, which is caused by repetitive brain trauma like the hits football players endure. This leads to depression, increased aggression, lack of impulse control, and eventually dementia, which may not manifest until years or even decades after the brain injuries took place. While CTE can only be definitively identified after a patient dies, a pilot study at the University of...
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