More unknown than known, UB expert says of CTE

"...correlation doesn't mean causation," Dr. Leddy of UB says.

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- UB Orthopedics and Sports Medicine has been at the forefront of concussion study for years, but when it comes to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, Dr. John Leddy said there’s a lot more unknown than known.

Dr. Leddy is a Clinical Professor in the Department of Orthopaedics at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and also Medical Director at UB’s Concussion Management Clinic.

He told News 4 the NFL’s announcement Monday, that there is an absolutely a link between CTE and playing professional football, was more personal opinion that hard fact.

CTE is characterized by memory loss, personality changes, and speech abnormalities, among other things.

The term hit the spotlight when Will Smith portrayed Dr. Bennet Omalu, who first associated the condition to NFL players.

Monday, an NFL health spokesperson noted research out of Boston, which found CTE in many former players.

“What they have is a big case series. And it’s good for raising the question of causation but correlation doesn’t mean causation,” Dr. Leddy said, referring to the Boston findings.

He told News 4 there a lot of factors which contribute to poor brain health in professional athletes.

“The problem I think with the players who were playing in the 70s, 80s, 90s, and the early 2000s, is no one really thought a concussion was anything to worry about,” he said.

Often, Leddy said players would continue play even while symptomatic of a concussion.

He credits the research out of Boston for continuing an important discussion, but notes the importance of further study.

The NFL has also supported further study on CTE.

Leddy sees youth athletes who’ve suffered concussions; most of them are hockey and football players.

News 4 asked if the amount of research available now is enough for parents to reconsider enrolling their kids in contact sports.

“Well I think it’s enough to make them think about it,” he said.

Here in Western New York, several youth teams have started practicing safe tackling techniques, as a way to avoid concussions.

Leddy said any contact sport runs the risk of concussions, but overall sports, including football, are getting safer as regulations change.

Football isn’t going away, he said, but he doesn’t expect the medical community to agree definitively on what CTE is, and how exactly it’s caused, for the next 5-10 years.

Starting in April, UB is conducting a five-year, federally funded study to look at concussions in teenage athletes.

They are looking for participants ages 13-17 who have recently suffered a sports-related concussion.

Call 716-829-5499 if you think you or your child could quality.

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