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NEWSRESEARCH


of the brain was carried out by researchers from UCL and the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery.


The team identified CTE pathology in four of the six brains examined, and all six also had signs of Alzheimer's disease. The rate of CTE identified in the footballers’ brains exceeds the 12% average background rate of CTE found in a previous survey of 268 brains of an unselected population at the Queen Square Brain Bank.


Like Alzheimer’s disease, CTE can cause dementia and they are both characterised by a build-up of abnormal tau protein in the brain, but CTE causes tau to accumulate in a distinctive pattern. Previous studies have found evidence of CTE in the brains of contact sports players, most notably boxers and American football players.


Footballers are exposed to repetitive blows to the head from heading the ball and from head-to-player collisions. However, football is unique compared with boxing and American football in that blows to the head are commonly more minor and footballers are less likely to experience significant neurological symptoms or loss of consciousness.


Lead author Dr Helen Ling (UCL Institute of Neurology), Senior Research Associate at the Department of Molecular Neuroscience and Neurologist, said: "This is the first time CTE has been confirmed in a group of retired footballers.


"Our findings of CTE in retired footballers suggest a potential link between playing football and the development of degenerative brain pathologies in later life. However, it is important to note that we only studied a small number of retired footballers with dementia and that we still do not know how common dementia is among footballers.”


EVIDENCE OF BRAIN DAMAGE FOUND IN FORMER FOOTBALLERS


Injuries caused from playing football could lead to dementia, a new study has found.


The study, funded by The Drake Foundation and published in the journal Acta Neuropathologica, looked at the brains of retired association footballers with dementia to distinguish whether head injuries from football could cause brain damage.


During the study, the researchers found Evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a potential cause of dementia caused by repeated blows to the head in the brains of the former football players.


The study examined 14 former footballers, who were referred to the Old Age Psychiatry Service in Swansea, Wales, between 1980 and 2010, at the UCL Queen Square Brain Bank. Permission from their next-of-kin was provided to perform post-mortem examinations, which were carried out in six ex-players. Post-mortem analysis


6 | Tomorrow’s Laboratories


The ex-footballers monitored in the study all started playing football and heading the ball in their childhood or early teens and continued to play regularly for an average of 26 years. Only six reported concussion with loss of consciousness while playing football, limiting to a single episode each during their playing career. The earliest symptoms of dementia started while they were in their 60s and they lived for an average of 10 years after symptoms began. Twelve out of 14 of them eventually died of advanced dementia.


Co-lead author Professor Huw Morris (UCL Institute of Neurology), Professor of Clinical Neuroscience and honorary consultant neurologist at the Royal Free Hospital and National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, added: "We do not yet know exactly what causes CTE in footballers or how significant the risk is.


"Major head injuries in football are more commonly


caused by player collisions rather than heading the ball. The average footballer heads the ball thousands of times throughout their career, but this seldom causes noticeable neurological symptoms. More research is now urgently needed to determine the risks associated with playing football so that any necessary protective measures can be put in place to minimise potential long term damage."


You can find more about the study here. www.tomorrowslaboratories.com


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