Study: Hits, not concussions, cause degenerative brain disease

BOSTON (WHDH) — A new study conducted by Boston University shows head impact, not concussions, trigger the degenerative brain disease known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).

Researchers who worked on the study identified evidence of early CTE brain pathology after head impact, even in the absence of signs of concussion. The findings, published in the journal Brain, are based on analysis of human brains from teenagers with recent head injury and mouse models that recreate sports-related head impact and military-related blast exposure.

Researchers hypothesized that early CTE may result from damaged blood vessels in the brain that become leaky, resulting in blood proteins spilling into brain tissue and triggering brain inflammation, according to the study.

“Our experimental results showed no correlation between concussive signs at the time of injury and CTE brain pathology,” said corresponding author Lee E. Goldstein.

That head impact caused persistent changes in brain electrical functions, which may explain cognitive difficulties experienced by some people after these injuries, according to investigators.

“In order to reduce CTE risk in contact sport athletes and military veterans, there must be a reduction in the number of head impacts,” said Ann McKee, MD.

Goldstein says the goal moving forward is to develop new diagnostics, therapeutics, protective equipment and preventive measures to hell those affected by head injuries.

Kristen Thibodeau, whose sons play for the BC Junior Eagles hockey team, said she has been reading up on the study and how it can affect teenagers.

“I take every hit more seriously and question them a lot, even though they don’t like it,” said Thibodeau. She said she plans to be vigilant but still support her children as they play sports.

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