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Jack Sisson's TBI Blog

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Concussions confer tremendous brain damage," reports CNN. That's the latest finding from the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy (CSTE), at the Boston University School of Medicine. From a Boston University press release:
Leading medical experts at the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy (CSTE) at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) reported today that nine-year NFL veteran, former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Tom McHale was suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease caused by head trauma, when he died in 2008 at the age of 45. In addition, the CSTE has discovered early evidence of CTE in the youngest case to date, a recently deceased 18-year-old boy who suffered multiple concussions in high school football.
Jack has argued for many years that concussions were more serious than popular opinion made them out to be. In fact, he was concerned enough to found a study at his prep school alma mater that administers neuropsychiatric tests to every incoming athlete. This serves as the baseline for future tests. Then, if a student athlete suffers a head injury, a subsequent test could presumably measure the extent, if any, of brain damage.
The discovery of the initial stages of CTE in an 18-year-old should move the discussion of football's concussion crisis toward youth football. The identity of the 18-year-old will not be revealed at the family's request. According to Cantu who wrote the first return-to-play guidelines, "Our efforts to educate athletes, coaches, and parents on the need to identify and rest concussions have only been moderately successful because people have been willing to look the other way when a child suffers a concussion. I hope the discovery of CTE in a child creates the urgency this issue needs. It is morally and ethically wrong to allow our children to voluntarily suffer this kind of brain trauma without taking the simple educational steps needed to protect them."
By the way, Jack doesn't limit his concerns to athletes. He thinks everyone should be tested as part of routine medical care.

According to the results of the study:
McHale, a Cornell University graduate, former restaurateur, husband and father of three boys, is the sixth former NFL player to be diagnosed post-mortem with CTE since 2002. CTE, a progressive neurodegenerative disease caused by repetitive trauma to the brain, is characterized by the build-up of a toxic protein called tau in the form of neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) and neuropil threads (NTs) throughout the brain. The abnormal protein initially impairs the normal functioning of the brain and eventually kills brain cells. Early on, CTE sufferers may display clinical symptoms such as memory impairment, emotional instability, erratic behavior, depression and problems with impulse control. However, CTE eventually progresses to full-blown dementia. McHale died due to a drug overdose after a multi-year battle with addiction. Expert consensus is that drug abuse of any kind would never cause the neuropathological findings of CTE seen in McHale.
We encourage you to read the entire press release.

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Comments:
Thanks for bringing this to light. I have sustained multiple TBIs over the course of my life - including two in high school, playing football and soccer. I could they had affected me, when I sustained each of them, but I insisted on returning to play because only 'sissies' sat out the game after taking a hard hit. And nobody stopped me. They weren't the only -- or the first -- mild traumatic brain injuries I sustained. Nor were they my last. But I have to really wonder what my life might have turned out like, had I not been "turned around" in my high school years, dealing with TBI-related cognitive and behavioral issues at such a formative time. Concussions in high school (and grade school) sports are no laughing matter -- the harm they do can and does have lasting effect for the rest of your life!
 
You're right that school sports' concussions are no laughing matter. Hopefully, coaches and team docs will take them more seriously now that new info keeps coming out.

Best of luck to you, and thanks for writing.
 
After that actress that had a skiing accident died from a head injury, I would recommend always checking for any type of brain or skull damage. She didn't even know she was hurt until she felt sick and had a headache...next thing you know, she's dead.
 
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