Local concussion expert weighs-in on new data about CTE

Ann McKee

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- A recent report by researchers at Boston University sheds new light on the degenerative disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE.

The data was published in the academic journal Brain. Researchers found repetitive head trauma, more so than concussions, can indicate likely CTE.

Dr. John Leddy, Medical Director of UB’s Concussion Management Clinic, uses the same cognitive instruments in his studies.

He said CTE is a challenging thing to study, and with Boston’s small sample size, there’s still a lot left to explore.

The Boston study compared the brains of four deceased football players ages 17 and 18, who had died shortly after a sports-related head injury to four brains of other athletes who did not experience head trauma before death. The brains in the former group showed abnormal buildups of a protein called tau, often linked to CTE.

The second group did not show changes in brain features. The study also used mice to mimic head trauma; the animals showed similar changes in the brain afterwards.

CTE is associated with memory loss, personality changes, and speech abnormalities.

Both Dr. Leddy and Boston University’s team struggle with causation versus correlation when it comes to CTE, as other neurological disease can cause similar symptoms.

“I get asked about this with my own patients. Their families ask me. And I say you know it’s a concern, and we don’t want your son or daughter to hit their head repeatedly and get multiple concussions, I mean that can’t be good for your brain. But we just don’t have evidence yet that repeated concussions or sub-concussive hits actually causes CTE,” Leddy explained.

Dr. Leddy will publish his own research in the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation in the Fall. He studied 21 retried Buffalo professional athletes, both hockey and football players.

Currently, the only way to definitely diagnose CTE is after death. Leddy’s subjects are all alive. He told News 4 more research in larger numbers needs to continue.

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