Game Change: Brain scans offer new view of NFL concussions

Reports have been linking concussions with a condition in the brain known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). A new technique allows scientists to peer into people’s brains and spot clumps of protein called tau. This can cause memory loss, impulse control and eventually dementia. Researchers used a technique and scanned brains of 5 former NFL players and 5 men who weren’t in the NFL. Each football player had 1 or more concussions. They all showed tau build up in their scans, whereas the men who didn’t play football, had none.

Researchers hope that the research will help them determine players who will have future brain damage so that they can cure it before it’s too late. Researchers don’t completely know how concussions and protein build up correlate with one another but they do know that one hit could lead to the accumulation of the protein. Some players can get hit thousands of times and never develop the disease; it just depends on the severity and person.

Some people believe that it’s genetic to have CTE. Most of the autopsied brains of NFL players have had CTE but they showed symptoms of the disease before their death. Football star Dave Duerson was a formal player who committed suicide 2 years ago. He left a note explaining that he shot himself in the chest and not the head because he wanted scientists to examine his brain. He wanted to know if they could explain the symptoms of his miserable life. Scientists hope that they can find early traces of inflammation before the tau can accumulate. They might have a chance to stop CTE from developing.

I thought that this article was very interesting. I believe that concussions lead to this disease based on what they found so far. I think it’s crazy that one hit could cause those problems later on in life. If players get hit more than once and are concussed, they just have that much more of a risk of having that protein build up and having it affect them later in life.

Trisha Widenmeyer, Class of 2015

NBC News

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