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Abnormal proteins imaged in concussed footballers' brains

Technique may lead to earlier diagnosis and tracking of brain disorders in athletes.

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Sports-related concussions and mild traumatic brain injuries have grabbed headlines in recent months, as the long-term damage they can cause becomes increasingly evident among both current and former athletes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that millions of these injuries occur each year.

Despite the devastating consequences of traumatic brain injury and the large number of athletes playing contact sports who are at risk, no method has been developed for early detection or tracking of the brain pathology associated with these injuries.

Now, for the first time, UCLA researchers have used a brain-imaging tool to identify the abnormal tau proteins associated with this type of repetitive injury in five retired National Football League players who are still living. Previously, confirmation of the presence of this protein, which is also associated with Alzheimer's disease, could only be established by an autopsy.

The preliminary findings of the small study are reported in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

Previous reports and studies have shown that professional athletes in contact sports who are exposed to repetitive mild traumatic brain injuries may develop ongoing impairment such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative condition caused by a build up of tau protein. CTE has been associated...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

UCLA