Friday, July 2, 2010

More evidence that Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy is linked to playing football

Recent neuropathological autopsy findings of a 26-year-old NFL player lend further credence to the idea that perhaps our high school children should not be playing football. Former Cincinnati Bengals player Chris Henry, who died after falling from a moving pick-up truck during a fight with his fiancee, was found to have histomorphologic evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). See the tau-immunohistochemistry photomicrograph from Henry's brain above. The findings consist of neurofibrillary tangles similar to those seen in Alzheimer disease. This article raises the question in my mind of whether school districts should offer genetic testing to potential players, as one's apolipoprotein E genetic status seems to indicate the likelihood that one might be more susceptible to the development of CTE. In any case, I intend to forbid my own son from playing football and from boxing. Any other sport is fair game. But I will not allow him to a participate in a sport where head injury is intrinsic not only to playing the game, but even participating in practices. This is not to say that I'm some kind of a pansy who is averse to any risk. I will allow my child to play any other sport, as head injury in other sports occur merely as accidents. But football and boxing will remain off-limits in my home.


Chris said...

Interesting that you leave out soccer in your discussion. Is there any evidence stemming from repeatedly heading an inflated black and white balloon?

Brian E. Moore, MD said...

Thanks for your comment, Chris. There is no evidence that I know of regarding the risk of CTE in soccer. CTE probably results from repeated, chronic head hits. Maybe in soccer the head hits are too infrequent to cumulatively result in CTE.

Anonymous said...

Hi Brian,

CTE is being diagnosed in Soccer players as well. Any sport that has a high rate of concussions (hockey, football, boxing, and soccer), the players are at a higher risk of developing cte.

ALS rates for Italian soccer players is much higher than the general population. A new study has found that CTE can often mask itself as ALS.

That having been said, I wish I knew the dangers of football before I played in High School.

Troy Aikman recently stated that he will not allow his sons to play tackle football either.

Mike said...

Hello Brian,
Perhaps the mechanics of head hits in soccer should be studied. In this case a 1 pound ball flying at 50mph, hitting the head and departing in the opposite direction is definitely imparting an equal and opposite acceleration on the skull and its enclosed brain tissue. Think about it, in less than the blink of an eye the ball goes from 50MPH to stopped, reverses direction and leaves the head at some other speed.

How about quantifying the effects on brains versus the scale of accelerations imparted on the brain. Then take a look at punches, football head hits, soccer headers and others, to see where they fall in the "brain tissue impact" versus "acceleration" graph. There is ample technology to assess accelerations imparted by various types of blows.

Brian E. Moore, MD said...

That would be a great study, Mike. Since my last comment, I have subsequently discovered that there is some evidence regarding the relationship between CTE and soccer. A literature search shows articles indicating that there may be an association there.