I’m not a huge football fan but I was kind of excited to see if the Arizona Cardinals could pull off a win. And for a brief shining moment late in the 4th it looked like they might have pulled off a miracle. But not so much.
In any case, a few days ago I ran across a really interesting CNN article about brain damage studies among dead athletes and the results are fairly amazing.
Until recently, the best medical definition for concussion was a jarring blow to the head that temporarily stunned the senses, occasionally leading to unconsciousness. It has been considered an invisible injury, impossible to test — no MRI, no CT scan can detect it.
But today, using tissue from retired NFL athletes culled posthumously, the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy (CSTE), at the Boston University School of Medicine, is shedding light on what concussions look like in the brain. The findings are stunning. Far from innocuous, invisible injuries, concussions confer tremendous brain damage. That damage has a name: chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
CTE has thus far been found in the brains of six out of six former NFL players.
“What’s been surprising is that it’s so extensive,” said McKee. “It’s throughout the brain, not just on the superficial aspects of the brain, but it’s deep inside.”
CSTE studies reveal brown tangles flecked throughout the brain tissue of former NFL players who died young — some as early as their 30s or 40s.
McKee, who also studies Alzheimer’s disease, says the tangles closely resemble what might be found in the brain of an 80-year-old with dementia.
“I knew what traumatic brain disease looked like in the very end stages, in the most severe cases,” said McKee. “To see the kind of changes we’re seeing in 45-year-olds is basically unheard of.”
The damage affects the parts of the brain that control emotion, rage, hypersexuality, even breathing, and recent studies find that CTE is a progressive disease that eventually kills brain cells.
Yow. Mommas don’t let your babies grow up to play football (or hockey, or box, or…) I guess is the moral of this story.