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Repeated concussions linked to degenerative brain disease

California residents may be interested in a recent university study that looked at the brains of 85 athletes with histories of concussions, and found some disturbing conclusions. They found that 80 percent of the brains that had been through a catastrophic injury had developed a disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which leads to depression, memory loss and dementia.

Thirty-three former NFL players were found to have this degenerative brain disease as well as nine college football players, six high school football players, seven boxers and four NHL players. In addition, the study found that the brains of children are especially vulnerable to brain trauma due to the fact that their brains are still developing. The neurons in their brains do not have the protective coating of cells called myelin that adult brains have, so they are more vulnerable to brain damage. Also, young sports players typically play with old equipment under the supervision of less experienced coaches, exacerbating the problem.

CTE is an extremely serious disease, because this type of total brain trauma leads to chronic brain degeneration, which in turn causes mental problems in victims. A study by the Harvard Medical School found that repetitive head injuries cause potentially damaging changes in areas of the brain linked to memory and higher cognitive functions.

There is a proposed solution in that the Shockbox sensor, a type of sensor currently used by the military to detect concussions in soldiers, will soon be available for commercial use. This sensor would be mounted on the helmets of athletes and transmit data to the coach's tablet. The data would inform him or her that the athlete possibly suffered a concussion. The coach would then have the ability to take the player off the field if necessary. This could help reduce the recurrence of concussions.

While preventive measures are certainly welcome, for many brain injury victims they will be arriving too late. Californians affected by CTE or their families should consider consulting with a legal professional to review their case and discuss their legal rights and options regarding a claim for damages.

Source: Men's Health News, "Are You Putting Your Brain on the Front Lines?," Scott Rosenfield, Feb. 13, 2013

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