1. CLEAR LINK BETWEEN LOW-IMPACT INJURY AND ALZHEIMER’S
Research published last week confirmed the strongest ever link between sports concussions and Alzheimer’s disease.
Until now, doctors only considered severe traumatic brain injury a key risk factor for developing neurodegenerative diseases.
But the new study by Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) has – for the first time – shown even low-impact injuries like concussion could have life-threatening consequences.
They reached their conclusion by scanning the brains of 160 wounded war veterans after tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Using MRI imaging, the researchers measured the thickness of their cerebral cortex in seven regions that have been pegged at the ‘ground zero’ for Alzheimer’s disease.
They also scanned seven control regions – regions that tend not to be affected.
They found that having a concussion was associated with lower cortical thickness in brain regions that are the first to be affected in Alzheimer’s disease.
Lead author, Dr Jasmeet Hayes, said: ‘Our results suggest that when combined with genetic factors, concussions may be associated with accelerated cortical thickness and memory decline in Alzheimer’s disease relevant areas.’
2. BRAIN CHANGES IN HIGH SCHOOL PLAYERS AFTER JUST ONE SEASON
A study at Wake Forest School of Medicine has been examining the brains of high school football players.
One of the participants is the son of former Minnesota Vikings player Greg DeLong.
The study published in the journal Radiology found measurable brain changes in teen players after a single season of ball – even without a concussion diagnosis.
Now DeLong is speaking out to say he would have seriously reconsidered his football career if he had known the risks.
‘Football’s important to us, but there are other things out there that are more important,’ DeLong told Good Morning America.
3. CDC BUILDING DATABASE ON SPORTS-RELATED CONCUSSIONS
The CDC has estimated that up to 3.8 million concussions occur in sports and recreational activities each year.
But some experts wonder if those numbers underestimate total brain injuries, as some individuals may not seek treatment for mild or moderate symptoms.
The agency has applied for federal funding to create a database in order to investigate sport injuries and brain diseases more in-depth.
Meanwhile, the state of Texas has embarked on the largest ever study into concussions.
State officials hope to track brain injuries among high school sports to discover whether more needs to be done to improve player safety and protect athletes.
The University Interscholastic League, Texas’ governing body for public high school sports, is partnering with the O’Donnell Brain Institute at UT Southwestern Medical Center for the project.
A state as large as Texas, which has more than 800,000 public high school athletes, would be a key step in developing a national database of brain injuries in youths, officials say.