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New evidence about traumatic brain injury




Football helmet of the late Owen Thomas, a former University of Pennsylvania football player, brought to a recent congressional hearing on football and brain trauma
Football helmet of the late Owen Thomas, a former University of Pennsylvania football player, brought to a recent congressional hearing on football and brain trauma
Photo by House Committee on Education and the Workforce Dem

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Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, commonly known as CTE, is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma. It's an issue that's caused much concern among pro football players and also parents of young athletes.

But a new study from Boston University seems to suggest that repetitive hits to the head, often considered incidental and part of the normal flow of the game, could be the most dangerous of all.

Last year, Take Two's A Martinez spoke with Dr. Daniel Daneshavar, who is also with Boston University, about another study, in which his team examined the brains of deceased NFL players.

Out of the 111 brains studied, 110 had CTE, which is known to cause memory loss, depression, and dementia. Here's what Daneshavar told us about his results. 

I think that the days are gone where we can pretend that this is not a major issue among professional athletes and individuals with high exposure to repetitive brain trauma.

We spoke to Andy and Brian Kamenetzky about the National Football League, and how it has changed its protocols related to players that may have suffered a concussion.  Among the changes,  if a player, who does not have a leg or related type of injury, stumbles or falls to the ground while trying to stand, they will be sent directly to the locker room for examination. The player can return to play only after passing an examination.

But now, with the new information about the repetitive hits, Andy wondered if more action needs to be done. 

What's noteworthy about these findings is that most hits, over the course of the game, don't signal concussion - meaning that the goal of testing for concussion during the course of a game, after a big hit where players come off of the field ... it's a very narrow focus, and the study would suggest, too narrow.  

We also talk to them about concussion prevention in youth sports, and not only in football, but also soccer. The California Interscholastic Federation, the governing body for high school sports in California, acknowledges that data now shows the link between catastrophic head injuries and the practice of having an injured athlete returning to play too soon. They require that  all coaches must receive concussion training.