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CTE and football injuries

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One has to be careful about suffering a concussion, but it's especially important to be aware of multiple hits to the head.

Doctors are finding CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, in NFL players after players have experienced multiple head injuries. Until recently, evidence was found only in the brains of deceased NFL players, who were showing symptoms before they died.

"They found it in National Football League players. We know it exists in professional soccer players. We know it exists in professional hockey players," Adirondack Neurology’s Dr. Michael Lenihan said. "There's dementia which is a cognitive decline, loss of memory, personality changes, loss of executive function, trouble with mood, mood disorder, explosive personality."

Researchers out of UCLA have developed a brain imaging tool, used and examined five retired NFL players. In each player, they found a buildup of an abnormal protein called tau.

“Tau is a protein that you see in the brain in various neurodegenerative disorders. You can see it in Alzheimer’s. You can see it in lateral sclerosis," Dr. Lenihan said.

Tau was found in the area of the brain that controls memory, emotions and other functions.

It seems that this research is going to be a game changer. The kick-off line has already been changed by backing it up by five yards and helmets have been modified. There's been a 40 percent decline in concussions already.

The athletes that were researched were already those who were having symptoms. The ideal would be to begin testing athletes before they show any signs.

"It does tend to start years after they retire, but the cascade probably started while playing football and then it continued for years afterwards and became more noticeable years after they retired," Dr. Lenhinan said.

Current players who show signs of CTE will now, hopefully, use the research information to decide when to retire and possibly prevent further injury.

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