Game Changing Research on Dead Football Players Brain Could Prevent CTE in Living People


It is not about dementia, Alzheimer’s or other neurodegenerative disease which could be diagnosed and taken care of accordingly. People who had experienced brain trauma during any part of their life due to multiple head injuries or repetitive mild head injury like veteran military soldiers, football players, rugby players and martial art performers often develop a progressive degenerative brain disease – Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Unlike Alzheimer’s there is no available technique for the diagnosis of CTE in a living person. It can only be diagnosed in the brain tissues of a dead person.

Researchers at the Boston University and the VA Boston Healthcare System, a group of hospitals run by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs have identified increased level of a protein called CCL11 in the brain tissues of dead football players with CTE. The players donated their brain to scientific research after death. The elevated protein level was not found in the normal healthy individuals or with Alzheimer’s disease.

According to a case study by Boston University, brain tissue of 90 out of 94 deceased former National Football League (NFL) players has been found to be positive for CTE. According to a new study in 2017, CTE was found in 99 percent of deceased NFL players’ brains that were donated for research.

Sports that allow regular physical contact between players like football, rugby, and hockey lead to many head-to-head blows or impact with the sporting instruments, causing mild head injuries and concussions. The injuries can initially cause headache, nausea, and dizziness, leading to depression, anxiety, movement disorders, suicidality, and memory loss. The symptoms are all linked to CTE.

The protein CCL11 has been found in the cerebrospinal fluid of the deceased and this identification accelarates the development of new diagnostic method for the detection of CTE in a living person.

CCL11 could be a potential biomarker for the diagnosis of CTE in patients although further research is needed in this direction. Its identification in deceased player could open a route for the development of treatment for CTE or measures to prevent the condition in people.

In recent years, several measures have been taken to make the contact sports safer for the payers. In NFL, pregame and post-game medical assessments of players are done to check the impact of any hard hit during game.

Featured Image Credit: Bigstockphoto ( NFL players CTE study)

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