The position that a person plays in sports like football or hockey won’t affect the risk of concussion-related brain disease later in life, a new study says. According to a Healthday report, the number of years played also doesn’t affect the risk of the neurodegenerative disease – chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The disease that damages the brain has been linked with repeated blows to the head and progresses over time leading to dementia. The study’s results were published online on Feb. 24 in the journal Neurology.
What the Study Found
The study’s author, Dr. Lili-Naz Hazrati with the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, said linemen in football tend to suffer more concussions than players in other positions. In hockey, forwards suffer more concussions. Longer careers have also been associated with an increased number of concussions. However, Hazrati says it is not clear whether a position played and career length may be tied to an increased risk of CTE.
In this study, researchers examined the brains of 35 men who played football or hockey at the professional or elite level. Their average age at the time of death was 63. All had neurological or neuropsychiatric symptoms ranging from minor mood disorders to severe dementia. Of the 35 men, about half were found to have CTE, which was determined by the number of tau deposits or protein tangles in the brain.
The researchers looked at the length of the athletes’ careers, the position they played and their age when they retired from competitive sports. They also checked the fighting history and number of penalty minutes among the hockey players. In both football and hockey players, there was no correlation between CTE and the position played or the age of retirement. Among hockey players, there was no link between CTE and fighting or penalty minutes. Researchers said the results are surprising given that prior studies have found CTE in 80% of autopsied brains of pro football players.
How CTE Affects Athletes
Repeated concussions have been linked to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease caused by repeated head injuries. Symptoms do not typically begin until years after the injuries and can include behavioral problems, mood problems, and problems with thinking. The disease often gets worse over time, and can result in dementia. CTE has been linked to deaths including suicides of former football players.
We hope these studies shed more light on the important steps that need to be taken to protect athletes not just in professional leagues, but also in college and high school sports. If you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury due to someone else’s negligence, please contact an experienced brain injury lawyer to obtain more information about pursuing your legal rights.