Source: US News and World Report
Prevention efforts such as changing rules of the game and making sure kids start playing tackle sports at much later ages are a start, she noted.
“We also need better diagnostic techniques to diagnose this condition during life,” McKee said.
The researchers are also looking for new ways to treat CTE and stave off its consequences, she added. There are ways now to address some of its symptoms, such as depression and anxiety.
“The symptoms are very disabling, and not knowing the cause makes people feel more helpless, so just being able to label what is happening can be helpful,” McKee said.
She urged anyone who has played contact sports and is now experiencing potential CTE symptoms to see their doctor.
“You might be suffering from the early stages of CTE, and we can do things to make it better,” she said.
Chris Nowinski has made it his life’s mission to fight against concussions. He is co-founder and CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation in Boston.
“This [research] suggests that having success in football the way we have been playing it is likely to result in CTE,” he said. “The debate about why is over: We know it’s hits to the head that is the risk factor.”
CTE is far more widespread than once thought, Nowinski said. Help is available, and many CTE symptoms can be treated.
On the prevention side, changing game rules needs to be considered. The Stop Hitting Kids in the Head Campaign advocates no sport tackling before age 14, Nowinski noted.
Much more remains to be learned about CTE, said Dr. Frederick Soliman, a sports medicine physician at the Orlando Health Jewett Orthopedic Institute in Florida.
“We first realized it in the biopsy of brains, and now we are backtracking to figure out the causes,” he said.
Genetics, substance abuse or other factors may make a person more likely to develop CTE, Soliman noted.
“Just a small proportion of people get CTE when we think of all the people who play contact sports, so there must be other factors involved,” he said.
Announcing its findings, the BU CTE Center said they are expected to be published soon. In part because of advances in CTE research, the U.S. National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke recently updated its position on the cause of CTE.
The BU CTE Center and the Concussion Legacy Foundation are recruiting former football players and other contact sport athletes for five studies.
McKee and her colleagues are asking former athletes to join research studies to learn how to diagnose and treat CTE. “Come forward,” she says.