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No one should be surprised that chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has now been diagnosed (after death) in a female professional athlete - Heather Anderson. Years of repeated head trauma, whether from concussions or subconcussive hits, can eventually cause CTE. Head trauma, whether in males or females, occurs from body hits in football, rugby, heading the ball in soccer, and checking in ice hockey.

Heather Anderson was an Australian rules football player who started playing when she was 5, also played rugby, and eventually competed in the top women's Australian rules football league, retired at 23 after a shoulder injury, and committed suicide at 28. Both Australian rules football and rugby are contact sports. After death, her brain was examined and found to have the lesions characteristic of CTE.

CTE symptoms include memory loss, impaired judgement, confusion, aggression, depression, thinking about suicide, and eventually dementia. There is progressive degeneration of brain tissue in CTE, as well as build-up of the abnormal protein tau in the brain.

From NY Times: C.T.E. Found for First Time in Female Pro Athlete

For the first time, the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., has been diagnosed in a female professional athlete, researchers reported. ...continue reading "CTE Found In Female Professional Athlete"

Should tackle football continue to be played in its current form? A study with horrifying results that was published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association raises that question once again.

The study examined 202 brains of people who had formerly played football for varying lengths of time and at varying levels (some who only played pre-high school, some at high school, college level, semi-professional, or Canadian football league). They found the highest percentage of  the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) among former NFL players (110 out of 111 brains). However, the overall incidence of CTE was 87% when looking at all 202 brains.

They also found that the 3 out of 14 former high school players had mild CTE, but the majority of former college, semiprofessional, and professional players had severe CTE.

The one thing to keep in mind is that the study only examined donated brains of former football players  - which means that the family members were concerned about CTE in the former player (perhaps there were symptoms suggestive of CTE). So we don't know the actual percentage of CTE in currently playing and former football players. But studies (here. here, and here) do show damage from hits received during football games and practice at even the grammar and high school level - and the damage can be from subconcussive hits.

But note that concussions and subconcussive hits (head trauma) also occur in other sports, such as soccer. Everyone agrees we need more studies, and we also need to rethink how some games are played in childhood to protect developing brains.

From NPR: Study: CTE Found In Nearly All Donated NFL Player Brains

As the country starts to get back into its most popular professional team sport, there is a reminder of how dangerous football can be. An updated study published Tuesday by the Journal of the American Medical Association on football players and the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy reveals a striking result among NFL players. ...continue reading "CTE Found In Majority Of Former Football Player Donated Brains"