October 6th, 2017


Yesterday on The PediaBlog, we looked at two studies describing the long-term impact of concussions suffered during youth and wondered aloud whether some parents were having second thoughts for allowing their sons to play organized tackle football. If the findings from those studies don’t change any minds, Daniella Emanuel’s reporting of these disturbing results from Boston University’s CTE Center earlier this summer might just do the trick:

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, known as CTE, was found in 99% of deceased NFL players’ brains that were donated to scientific research, according to a study published Tuesday in the medical journal JAMA.

The neurodegenerative brain disease can be found in individuals who have been exposed to repeated head trauma. The disease is pathologically marked by a buildup of abnormal tau protein in the brain that can disable neuropathways and lead to a variety of clinical symptoms. These include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, aggression, depression, anxiety, impulse control issues and sometimes suicidal behavior.

It can only be formally diagnosed with an autopsy, and most cases, although not all, have been seen in either veterans or people who played contact sports, particularly American football.


At the time of autopsy in 202 subjects, CTE was found in:

— 0 of 2 pre-high school youth football players.

— 3 of 14 high school players (21%).

— 48 of 53 college players (91%).

— 9 of 14 semi-professional players (64%).

— 7 of 8 Canadian Football League players (91%).

— 110 of 111 National Football League players (99%).


As concerning as these findings are, Barbara Moran discovered more unsettling news from the study’s lead author:

Mez notes some puzzling findings from the study. Most striking, the researchers observed clinical symptoms such as depression, anxiety, disinhibition, memory loss, and other mood and behavior impairments even in patients with fairly mild CTE pathology. “Why do you still see symptoms even without that much CTE pathology?” asks Mez. “It suggests that there might be even more going on than just the tau pathology; there might be other things that we need to look at, like inflammation or axonal injury, or there might be regions of the brain that we’re not looking at sufficiently.”


Knowing what we now know about football and CTE, would you allow your son to play the sport?


(Google Images)



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    Ned Ketyer, M.D.

    Ned Ketyer, M.D.

    Dr. Ketyer has special interests in developmental pediatrics and preventative medicine, specifically how nutrition and the environment affect health. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Vermont and his medical degree from Northwestern University Medical School. He completed his residency at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

    As one of the founding physicians of Pediatric Alliance, PC, Dr. Ketyer served as its president from 1997-2004. He has been practicing general pediatrics at Pediatric Alliance since 1990. Dr. Ketyer and his wife have three boys and live in Pittsburgh's South Hills. 

  • Note: The information included in these posts is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.

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