Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Another case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in a football player

The Huffington Post reports today on the suicide of a University of Pennsylvania football player. Neuropathologists at Boston University performed a brain autopsy which showed chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The New York Times also reported on this case. The young football player's mother wanted to make the results public, saying "there's nothing trivial about this whatsoever. Anyone who thinks that this can be swept under the carpet is in for a big shock. It's a big implication here." The implication being, of course, that CTE contributed to the young man's depression which, in turn, led to his suicide. "How can you blame football for the kid's suicide?", one might ask. I don't think anyone is making that kind of simplistic connection. There is evidence that the young man had brain damage, and one might infer that it came from playing football. Perhaps brain trauma in an individual who is genetically predisposed to CTE may be a contributing factor leading to suicide. That speculation alone ought to be enough to make parents think twice before enrolling their kid in a football program.


Anonymous said...

The write-up in the Penn newspaper strongly linked the brain damage to his suicide. To far a leap, I think, to conclude. After all, n=1.

Anonymous said...

They keep finding structural brain damage in these the brains of kids and the cases keep getting younger.

Dr. Moore, thank you for having the courage to identify the key to preventing CTE in your kids...DON'T LET THEM PLAY FOOTBALL.

Repetitive low-impact brain trauma is inherent in the game. When will school boards have the courage to shut football programs down for good. Or, should we be content to send children out on the field to give each other permanent brain damage. Sorry, but I'm sick of hearing the NFL and high school coaches say that they are solving the problem by identifying concussions early and resting kids...in fact, the damage is already done.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous,
What number "n" would be compelling enough for the AMA or American Academy of Pediatrics to start issuing formal warnings to parents that this game may be hazardous to your child's brain function? What number "n" will satisfy you?

These parents come to the medical profession and pay for the anticipatory guidance given during well physicals and sports exams. Advice on car safety seats and vaccine programs given at length during annual childhood visits. Advice on keeping your child well through the years. The medical profession as a whole should be taking a very strong, proactive stance here.

Sports are more extreme today and the environmental conditions that some of these kids are playing in are more extreme. Not all programs operating with the benefit of certified athletic trainers.

Someone bothered to start studying this aspect of health and wellness in our young athletes. Now that disease states are being identified...Well, what is the action plan? These parents are relying on those who study or are funded to study disease to be clear in their recommendations. After all, exercise is good and a sedative lifestyle is bad. If the prescription needs to be more written more clearly then it is the obligation and duty of those prescribing to make sure that they are doing no harm to the young population they are serving.

Anonymous said...

I do not doubt the link between repetitive concussions and CTE; Ann McKee has done a great job demonstrating this.

What cannot be concluded is that the CTE led to his suicide. He could have been depressed despite the CTE and may have committed suicide regardless. Making *this* link is a huge leap.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure suicide is not a new phenomenon among teenagers, sad though it may be. If I'm not mistaken, it is a leading cause of death in this age group and has been for some time. Here is a case of a rare diagnosis of CTE and suicide occuring in the same child. Interesting to be sure, but a cause and effect - hardly compelling.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Brian. FYI, the SF Weekly had a cover story on Sept. 29 about a former college football player and his aberrant behavior, perhaps correlated to brain injury.