CTE and Concussions in Football Players.
Crippling brain injury from football can start early, even among high school players, a new study suggests.
And its effects can last over time, even without additional head impacts, researchers report.
Football players can develop chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) after playing high school football, although higher rates of CTE are tied to college and pro football, the researchers said.
“Unfortunately, we found CTE in people who only played high school football and passed away at a very young age,” said lead author Dr. Daniel Daneshvar, from Boston University’s School of Medicine CTE Center.
CTE is a devastating degenerative brain disease found in athletes, military veterans and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma, according to the Concussion Legacy Foundation.
It is most prominently found among football players: 110 of 111 deceased NFL players were found to have some form of CTE in a study released in 2017. Among them were Junior Seau, Ken Stabler and Frank Gifford.
“We still don’t understand a lot about the disease and what causes it,” Daneshvar said.
But, he added, the findings suggest that CTE is progressive and worsens with age even in the absence of additional head trauma.
CTE can only be diagnosed after death by examining brain tissue
For the study, Daneshvar and his colleagues looked at the brains of football players who had died. The study included more than half of the diagnosed CTE cases worldwide.
The brains were donated between February 2008 and May 2016. The researchers also surveyed people who had known these men.
Autopsies of the brains found signs of CTE in 177, or 87 percent of all the football players in the study. Specifically, it was found in 29 percent of high school players, 87 percent of college players, 71 percent of semi-pro players, 88 percent of Canadian Football League players and 99 percent of National Football League players.
The researchers found CTE followed an age-dependent evolution, from small lesions in teenagers and young adults to severe brain damage in middle age.
Based on their interviews and surveys, the players also often had cognitive, behavior, mood and motor symptoms during their life, the researchers said.
Pro players suffered from CTE at greater rates and died with advanced CTE. They were also more likely to have been diagnosed with dementia, compared with college players.
Daneshvar hopes that a way to diagnose the disease can be found while players are alive and can lead to a treatment.
What can be said is that CTE occurs in a high percentage of individuals who play contact sports, Daneshvar said.
“The brain doesn’t care what hits it. We’ve see CTE in victims of domestic violence, in hockey players, boxers and military veterans. So if you end up getting hit in the head a lot, you’re at risk for CTE,” he added.
One expert not involved with the study said parents of kids who play football should be aware that there may be potential long-term harm.
“I tell parents that we don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Dr. John Kuluz, director of traumatic brain injury and neurorehabilitation at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami.
“We don’t know what effects concussions are going to have on their child, but we should be concerned about it,” he said.
“We should also keep an open mind, because this study is not definitive,” Kuluz added.
Concussions in football are not only common, but they are also expected; every time the head receives an impact, the brain can bounce around inside the skull. This ‘bouncing” happens whenever an impact occurs, whether a helmet is worn or not. Upon impact, the brain tissue can be damaged, resulting in a lack of consciousness, increased tiredness, “seeing stars” and ongoing confusion.
These problems occur in the aftermath of a concussion but can continue for months to years afterward. Repeated concussions can ultimately lead to CTE and the resulting problems with focus, concentration and cognitive skills. Left untreated, even a single concussion can have lasting negative impacts on the way the brain performs and the overall quality of life experienced by the player.
In many cases, if the player does not lose consciousness, he never heads to the emergency room. A 2018 publication for coaches, parents, and athletes targeted this problem and aimed to boost awareness of the danger of head injury and brain damage for youth football players. According to this CDC publication, head injuries without visible lumps, bleeding or sustained consciousness must be taken seriously; they could lead to problems later in life.
Campaigns led by groups including the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics are designed to prevent concussion and boost awareness of the issue, but what about those who are already injured and experiencing the issues related with CTE?
Neurofeedback evaluates existing brainwaves and retrains the brain to function in a healthier way, often eliminating unwanted symptoms and issues. While concussion and CTE damage were once seen as something that could not be reversed, there is new hope for both professional and student-athletes in any sport.
According to USA Today, professional football players are turning to neurofeedback to get relief. Greenbay Packers player Jermichael Finley began to see results from neurofeedback after only a few weeks.
“I didn’t think it was something that could be fixed,” Finley said, speaking with USA Today.
“I noticed irritability began to set in and really didn’t know what to do. When I heard about the place, my first thought was, ‘Man, this is not my kind of deal.’ I was told to think outside the box and see what’s going on with my brain.”
Finley saw improvement – and his brain scan did too. When he was initially scanned, Finley had 44% dysfunction. Just six weeks later, the retired player had only 20% dysfunction.
While results vary, neurofeedback provided both reliefs from symptoms for this retired pro and a significant reduction in the dysfunction he was experiencing.
…. Since CTE and concussions impact brain function and the actual physical and chemical makeup of the brain, the (qEEG), or brain scan, used in neurofeedback can help quantify the damage and reveal where dysfunction is occurring. Administered by a professionally trained technician, a brain scan is a quick and easy process, during which the patient wears a snug-fitting cap and relaxes in comfort while brain waves are measured by sensors in the cap.
For those who suspect a concussion or who have been injured while playing football or any other sport, neurofeedback offers a pain-free, worry-free way to identify and target troublesome brainwave patterns. …..
Since the process is non-invasive and pain-free and has the potential to ease symptoms, professional players and youngsters are turning to neurofeedback therapy as a source of hope and recovery. Since neurofeedback can be used on children over six and adults, it can help identify unhealthy brain patterns and create healthier pathways for athletes of any age.
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