Sports-related concussions and traumatic brain injuries: Research roundup By Alex Remington The issue of concussions in sports has attracted considerable media coverage in recent years. Understandably, the early focus was on professional football, a game built around high-speed, full contact between heavy, powerful players, but the scope of reporting and research has expanded widely to include sports at every level. A pioneer of reporting in this field was Alan Schwarz of the New York Times; his work highlighted the history of concussions and their consequences in the NFL.
The new findings come amid mounting evidence that repetitive head impacts from contact sports and other exposures are associated with the neurodegenerative disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy CTE and dementia.
But the new study, published today in the Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurologysuggests that those motor symptoms are instead caused by a separate disease, now also linked to contact sports participation, called Lewy body disease LBD.
The total number of years of contact sports play were linked to an increased risk of having LBD in the cortex of the brain. Those who played more than eight years of contact sports had the greatest risk of LBD, which was six times higher than those who played eight years or less.
The researchers have previously shown that other brain changes are correlated with the total years of contact sports play. In earlier studies, the number of years of tackle football participation was found to predict the severity of tau pathology in the dorsolateral frontal cortex as well as the stage of CTE.
Additionally, individuals with a history of repetitive head impacts and neuropathological diagnosis of CTE accumulate beta-amyloid at a younger age and at an accelerated rate compared to control subjects.
The new study advances our understanding of the consequences of repetitive head impacts in contact sports on the development of clinical symptoms and the pathology that underlies them, the researchers say. They add that further work is needed to better define the risks associated with repetitive head impacts and neurodegeneration.
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