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New research questions recent sports concussion decisions

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Dr. Stella Karantzoulis of New York University School of Medicine and Dr. Christopher Randolph, a clinical neuropsychologist at Loyola University Medical Center, published new evidence that questions the relationship between concussions caused in sports and the development of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in the Dec. 3, 2013, issue of the journal Neuropsychological Review.

The researchers reviewed the evidence of any relationship between repeated concussion and CTE that led to a decision by National Football League to pay damages to former athletes that claimed to have suffered injury as a result of the lack of proper protection from repeated concussion and found little evidence that supports the former athlete’s claims.

The researchers note that: the only hard evidence of CTE in retired NFL players came from autopsy of individuals that definitely had CTE but could not directly relate the condition to a concussive injury; suicide rates in a study of 3,439 former NFL players were substantially lower than the suicide rate in the general populace despite the fact that suicide is one of the most prominent behaviors resulting from CTE; the rates of cognitive impairment in former NFL players was the same as the general population; and the high levels of tau protein in one study of former NFL player’s brains did not correlate with the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers do not state categorically that repeated concussion in football or any other sports do not lead to CTE but do indicate that there is a lack of conclusive evidence that former NFL players have suffered any higher frequency of any brain disease than the general population.

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