American Football and CTE

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American Football and CTE

Posted on: January 11th, 2016 by Isobel Addison No Comments

Following on from our previous blog American Football may ban helmets Reuters Health report that a U.S research report into a former college football player who sustained repeated hits to the head and showed signs of brain damage after his death may offer fresh clues about how concussions impact athletes.

The gentleman concerned began playing American Football at the age of 6 and suffered his first concussion aged 8 and suffering more than 10 concussions in all.

At age 24, neurological tests found he had memory and recall problems, speech and language impairment and difficulties remembering and reproducing line drawings.

After his death, researchers examined his medical records and his donated brain and agreed he had post-concussive syndrome with possible CTE and major depression.

The 25 year old died of a cardiac arrest related to an infection in his heart, but the autopsy showed signs of brain damage consistent with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

CTE is a traumatic brain disorder at can only be diagnosed during an autopsy.  It is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma, including symptomatic concussions.  CTE has been known to affect boxers since the 1920’s (when it was termed punch drunk syndrome or dementia pugilistica).  In recent years the disease has been found in other athletes, including football and hockey players, as well as in military veterans.  Repeated brain trauma triggers progressive degeneration of the brain tissue, including the build-up of an abnormal protein called tau.  The brain degeneration is associated with common symptoms of CTE including memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, suicidal tendencies, parkinsons, and eventually progressive dementia. These symptoms often begin years, or even decades after the last brain trauma or end of active athletic involvement.

It is believed that other factors, such as genetics, may play a role in the development of CTE, as not everyone with a history of repeated brain trauma develops this disease, however, these other factors are not yet understood.

It is becoming more widely understood that CTE affects not only professional athletes but  that contact sports athletes at the amateur level are also at risk for the disease.

While this isn’t the first former football player to be diagnosed with CTE after years playing contact sports, this particular athlete had a series of psychological and cognitive tests before his death that offer some insight into how symptoms of CTE might develop, McKee and colleagues note in their report.

More research is needed however CTE should be considered in young athletes who have repeated head trauma as well as persistent mood and behavioral symptoms.

Such research might help us to understand progressive psychological conditions and conditions that would otherwise be considered early onset dementia and underline the importance of proper investigation into traumatic brain injury.

We regularly act for clients that have sustained traumatic head injuries and any research that helps us to anticipate any additional difficulties that they might face in later life will ensure that we can secure sufficient compensation for their future needs.



Posted on: December 17th, 2015 by Isobel Addison No Comments

The NHS Choices website states that most cases of concussion occur in children and teenagers aged 5 to 14, with the two most common causes being sporting and cycling accidents. Falls and motor vehicle accidents are a more common cause of concussion in older adults.

The most common symptoms of concussion are: confusion, headache, dizziness, nausea, loss of balance, feeling stunned or dazed, disturbances with vision and difficulties with memory.

People who regularly play competitive team sports such as football and rugby have a higher risk of concussion.


An inquest into the death of Jeff Astle, former England and West Bromwich Albion player, who died in 2002 aged 59, found that he had suffered death by industrial disease: his brain having been damaged by the repeated heading of heavy leather footballs.

We have seen only too often footballers suffer head injuries and then continue to play and a report into injuries suffered at the 2014 FIFA World Cup found that there were 1.68 injuries per match. 18% were head injuries and they included five concussions and three fractures. Almost all of the head injuries were caused by contact.


The RFU website suggests that about 25% of injuries during play are to the head (including concussions, cuts, bruises, and so on). Approximately it is thought in the professional game 1 concussion is suffered in every 3 games and in the amateur game the rate is 1 concussion in every 21 games.

We were saddened to read that Lily Partridge a 23 year old part-time teacher, zoo-worker and sportswoman lost her life earlier this month having suffered a head injury during a rugby match in Devon. Only last year Sarah Chesters, died over a month after suffering an injury whilst playing rugby. An inquest determined that Miss Chesters died from brain injuries thought to have been triggered by blunt force trauma to the side of the neck when she first sustained injury, caused by a tackle.

What to do?

The NHS Choices website recommends that you visit your nearest accident and emergency department if you or someone in your care has a head injury resulting in concussion and then develops any of the following signs and symptoms:

  • loss of consciousness from which the person then recovers
  • amnesia (memory loss)
  • persistent headaches since the injury
  • changes in behaviour – a particularly common sign in children under the age of five
  • confusion
  • drowsiness that goes on for longer than an hour when you would normally be awake
  • large bruise or wound to the head or face
  • prolonged vision problems
  • reading or writing problems
  • balance problems or difficulty walking
  • loss of power in part of the body, such as weakness in an arm or leg
  • clear fluid leaking from the nose or ears
  • a black eye with no other damage around the eye
  • sudden deafness in one or both ears

Head Injuries can, as evidenced by the sad stories of Lily Partridge and Sarah Chesters be devastating, very quickly. They may, as they proved to be for Jeff Astle, have long term health implications.

If you are in any doubt about head injuries of any kind, including concussional head injuries, you should seek medical advice.