Hits to head may cause CTE even without concussions

That new research underscores that the kinds of "sub-concussive" blows to the head that many athletes routinely endure are far more worrisome than players, their parents and their physicians have been led to believe.

A study published Thursday in Brain, a journal of neurology, presents evidence that repetitive hits to the head that don't lead to concussions can still cause CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

This study provides the "best evidence we have so far", he added, that it's really those subconcussive impacts (those below the threshold of an actually concussion) that are risky and cause CTE.

"This disease and the injuries associated with it, that precede it, are triggered not by the signs and symptoms that we see with someone that's having a concussion", Goldstein said. Goldstein, together with an worldwide team of researchers, examined the brains of four football players, aged 17 or 18, who died a day to four months after a head injury. "Head impact results in focal disruption" of capillaries, resulting in proteins leaking into the brain, he says.

Doctors say it's one step forward in the study of CTE, but there's still a lot more research to be done. "And now that scientists know exactly what's happening that opens the door for people to try to find inventions to try to stop what's happening".

"To parents who want their children to experience football, they should not play tackle football until 14", Carson also said in a news release. "This is because individuals react differently to both the number and the severity of brain impacts", said Dr. Comstock. He's been diagnosed with possible CTE and suffers from dementia.

Not surprisingly, the NFL has already issued a response to this new study, noting that the research around TBI and CTE "continues to advance the discussion, awareness and understanding around this important issue", per Dr. Alan Sills, a neurosurgeon who is the league's chief medical officer.

CTE is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by abnormal accumulation of tau protein around small blood vessels in the brain.

That and other evidence led the researchers to hypothesize that early CTE may result from leaky blood vessels in the brain.

Researchers also studied the brains of four other athletes of similiar age without recent head injuries.

CTE is a known condition among professional football players and military veterans and those who have been exposed to bomb blasts etc. It starts early. It persists. Players who compete are, for the most part, well aware of the risks they are taking.

  • Rogelio Becker