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  • Study: Concussions Aren't the Link to CTE

    New research on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) concludes that it's not concussions that cause the condition, but repeated traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)—the kind experienced by more people than just those involved in contact sports. Authors of the study also call for more clarity when it comes to concussion—which they describe as a syndrome—versus TBI, a tissue-damaging event that can happen with or without concussion.

    The study, published in the journal Brain, is based on head trauma experiments on mice, as well as an analysis of several brains of teenagers who had experienced head injuries. Researchers were looking for the presence of CTE or an abnormal accumulation of tau protein, a marker for CTE and Alzheimer's disease. They found those indicators even in brains that had not experienced concussions, leading researchers to conclude that it is repeated TBIs that can cause CTE. The results grabbed the attention of national news outlets, including CNN, National Public Radio, and The Washington Post.

    "The results may explain why approximately 20% of athletes with CTE never suffered a diagnosed concussion," Lee Goldstein, MD, PhD, 1 of the study's authors, told The Washington Post.

    "There are many vulnerable populations at greatly increased risk of repetitive head injury," Goldstein said in the Post interview. "It's a big problem for the [National Football League], a bigger problem for amateur athletes, and even larger problem still for the public."

    The study also aims to separate the concept of concussion as a neurological syndrome from TBI as an event that causes damage to tissue. In his Post interview, Goldstein explained that "If you don't have a concussion, you can absolutely have brain injury and the reverse is true."

    "Collectively, these results raise concern that repetitive neurotrauma, independent of concussion, may induce early CTE brain pathologies, even in teenagers and young adults," authors write in the study. "Cumulative exposure to such injuries may also increase risk for other tau protein neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease…. These considerations are important not only for understanding and differentiating concussion, TBI, and CTE, but also to inform clinical practice, return-to-play protocols, and public health policy."

    For more information on the role of the physical therapist and physical therapist assistant in TBI and concussion, visit APTA's Concussion and Traumatic Brain Injury webpage.


    • Hello, For the last (almost) two years I’ve been working closely with a New York based brain injury advocacy group and neuropsychologist to bring an idea to life in the form of a web app. The tool is based on their protocol for tracking and recording symptoms related to brain injury as a means to self-advocate for a more complete diagnosis and improved treatment. The result is https://www.tbitracker.com/ and we are at a point where we are hoping to get some people using the site and providing some feedback. It just went “live” in what I guess would be beta-form and we are constantly working to improve it. I am reaching out in an attempt to spread the word, we believe strongly that his tool can be a valuable free resource for those suffering from TBI. There’s no cost to sign up or use any of the features, if you have any interest please check it out, give it a try and let me know what you think. https://www.tbitracker.com/about-tbi-tracker Thank you for your consideration, Hank

      Posted by Hank on 3/9/2018 4:14 PM

    • I am concerned that a base line of what constitutes a “concussion “ is not being established. There are both mechanical and sonic concussive sources that may have a bearing on the formation and progression of CTE. Would exposure to loud music at concerts and night clubs lead to CTE? Would exposure to the concussive forces of gunfire, or military cannon fire, lead to CTE? The ability for sound waves to pass through our bodies could be producing similar results to the physical contact of sports athletes. Therefore CTE may become a newly realized plague of a loud generation and not just symptoms of old age. More study is needed.

      Posted by M. L. Humpert on 3/16/2018 11:03 PM

    • I had two head injuries years ago and developed epilepsy. My personality completely changed years after these incidents. Not much I can do about it now but there are alot of people out there that think I'm totally nuts. I want to avoid these people by just moving away. Don't know what else I can do.

      Posted by Terri E. on 10/31/2018 10:05 PM

    • My grandgirls play lacross and participate in cheerleading. One has had at least two confirmed concussions. My concern is the truth behind the training coaches have and the so called trainers who judge to take them out of the game. Last game my grandaughter got hit in head twice both times allowed to continue to play. Dr. said she had concussion the trainer and coach told her she wad fine.... I am going to advocate for stricter guide lines. Dont know another solution.

      Posted by Sonia Nurczyk on 5/30/2019 10:07 AM

    • My 42y old younger brother has been ordered by the Dr to take a medical retirement due to CTE. He was a county Under Sheriff. father, and owns a shooting range. CTE is causing seizures, gait changes (he know walks w/ an AD do to frequent falls). He has HA, mood changes and difficulty w/ speech. Our Father was dx with Alzheimer Disease when he was 65 and died by 70y. Could there be a genetic correlation that is not well known of? What are the most current , 2020 or 2019, medical or PT for pt suffering with CTE?

      Posted by Rebecca Havens PTA on 2/3/2020 1:53 PM

    • It's true that TBI's lead to CTE but here's the thing: concussions are a kind of TBI. In fact they are the most common type of TBI, even if they are a" less severe" TBI. I feel that this article doesn't touch on this, which can mislead many people. If TBIs are linked to CTE, I don't understand why concussions aren't included in this.

      Posted by Katie on 2/21/2020 8:48 PM

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