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What a new study is showing us about CTE, and how it might impact youth sports participation




Runningback Armani Aburto #35 of the Carlsbad Mighty Lancers (8 and under) runs with the ball as he facemasks #20 Jarryn Thompson of the Torrey Pines Falcons during the Pop Warner Division Finals on November 9, 2002 at Carlsbad High School, in Carlsbad, California.
Runningback Armani Aburto #35 of the Carlsbad Mighty Lancers (8 and under) runs with the ball as he facemasks #20 Jarryn Thompson of the Torrey Pines Falcons during the Pop Warner Division Finals on November 9, 2002 at Carlsbad High School, in Carlsbad, California.
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

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Kimberly Archie, a Los Angeles parent has filed a lawsuit against youth football league Pop Warner, claiming that her son’s participation in the youth sports program lead to damage to his brain.

Archie’s son, Paul Bright, Jr., died in a motorcycle crash when he was 24 years old. After his death, he was diagnosed with brain damage and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).

In recent years, as researchers have begun to pay greater attention to traumatic head injuries caused by contact sports like football, concussions have been pointed to as the biggest culprit for the enigmatic neurodegenerative disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. But a new study published in the journal “Brain” pushes back on that, presenting what the authors call “the best evidence to date” that links repeated blows to the head to CTE in athletes who play contact sports.

The study looked at the brains of deceased teen athletes, one group which had documented head injuries within one, two, 10, and 128 days before death and another which did not. The brains of the athletes that had suffered head injuries showed signs of CTE pathology that weren’t present in the brains of the athletes who had not. Researchers also ran lab tests on mice to see whether blast exposure or repeated hits to the head could trigger signs of CTE. They found that CTE can form immediately following a routine blow to the head, even if concussion symptoms don’t immediately present.

Guests:

Michelle Faust, KPCC health care reporter; her report today looks at the lawsuit filed by a parent in Los Angeles against the Pop Warner football league

Lee Goldstein, MD, lead author of the study and associate professor of psychiatry at Boston University’s School of Medicine

Julian Bailes, MD, director of neurosurgery and co-director of NorthShore University HealthSystem Neurological Institute; he is also the volunteer chairman of the medical advisory committee for Pop Warner Youth Football