Brain scan can help protect contact athletes from serious disease

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Twelve years ago a rare and serious disease was discovered in the brain, post mortem, of U.S. football player”Iron” Mike Webster of the Pittsburgh Steelers who died at the age of 50 almost broke, disabled and sometimes homeless.

It is called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) .

But it wasn’t until news accounts of the past few years, including a major story broadcast on the PBS investigative documentary show Frontline gave parents of teens across the nation second thoughts about allowing their children to play football in junior high and high school.

Since the Webster discovery researchers at Boston University have found the disease in 50 additional football players, one as young as 17. However no athlete to date has been able to get a definitive diagnosis of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which results in confusion, abnormal behavior and numerous cognitive and psychiatric symptoms that appear to result from repeated blows to the head as would be experienced in heavy contact sports like boxing, hockey and football.

The only way to confirm a diagnosis of Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is after the death of a sufferer when abnormal protein jumbles are found throughout the brain. These have been found in the autopsied brains of former athletes who died by suicide or dementia.

But now new research may allow CTE to be diagnosed in living patients. The research indicates that one day a simple brain scan could provide athletes, and others who risk further brain injury some measure of early warning that damage with long-term consequences has already been done.

And such early warning might help patients take measures to protect their brains from further injury, or get help that might mitigate the worst symptoms of CTE.

Read full, original article: For athletes and other who suffer concussions, a brain scan may provide early morning to take preventative measures

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