Expert says concussions are not needed to develop CTE
It is commonly believed that chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is the result of concussions, thanks to football’s current issues handling concussions on the field and the high rate of CTE being found in former players.
However, concussions and CTE might not be as closely related as believed. In fact, a prominent brain researcher suggests concussions aren’t needed at all for someone to develop the permanent neurodegenerative disease.
In actuality, Lee Goldstein, MD, Ph.D., says CTE is more related to the accumulation of smaller “subacute” blows to the head over time. While these hits may include concussions in some, Goldstein explains none of the hits actually have to be strong enough to cause a clinical concussion.
Goldstein, from Boston University’s CTE Center and School of Medicine, explained the misperceived relationship between CTE and concussions at the recent eighth annual Traumatic Brain Injury Conference, where she shared recent research that indicated “”closed-head impact injuries, independent of concussive signs, can induce traumatic brain injury as well as early pathologies and functional sequelae associated with chronic traumatic encephalopathy.”
“We can completely dissociate concussion” from CTE, Goldstein said. The studies have revealed about CTE; “no correlation on the concussion score with anything we have measured,” he said.
In their research at the center, Goldstein says his group of researchers have seen hallmark signs of dementia in the brains of relatively young deceased former athletes. Some were in their 20’s, well before signs of dementia typically appear.
Surprisingly, Goldstein says this “has nothing to do with concussions,” but is actually directly related to smaller hits to the head.
Goldstein’s team has also observed early signs of CTE in the brains of teenagers, including a 17-year-old male.