A new study has found that males who participate in amateur contact sports are far more susceptible to developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disorder also known as CTE that results in memory loss, depression and dementia.
The study, done by the Mayor Clinic and published in the December issue of Acta Neuropathological, showed that nearly one in three males who had played contact sports growing up – such as high school football – showed signs of CTE upon death.
CTE is known to be caused by repetitive brain trauma, and recently has become a source of controversy in the National Football League and other professional sport leagues.
This study, however, is the first to look at chronic traumatic encephalopathy in non-professional athletes using the criteria from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, according to researchers.
CTE can only be identified posthumously. The study is based on the examination of brains donated to research, and identified amateur contact sports as including football, boxing, wrestling, rugby, basketball, and baseball.
Of the 66 males who participated in contact sports growing up, 32 percent showed CTE when their brains were examined. Of the 198 who did not participated in contact sports – including 66 women -- none had signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
“The purpose of our study is not to discourage children and adults from participating in sports because we believe the mental and physical health benefits are great,” Kevin Bieniek, the lead author, said in a press release. “It is vital that people use caution when it comes to protecting the head. Through CTE awareness, greater emphasis will be placed on making contact sports safer, with better protective equipment and fewer head-to-head contacts.”
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