The risk of traumatic brain injury (TBI) among football players and boxers is well documented and commonly discussed among medical professionals. But another sport is becoming part of this international conversation. A new study in the May edition of the Quarterly Journal of Medicine is examining the prevalence of traumatic brain injuries on rugby players. As reported on HealthDay, medical experts now believe that injuries related to this popular sport can lead degenerative brain disease later in life.
The study comes after the death of a rugby player who regularly played the game from the age of 20-years-old until 50-years-old. Upon his death at 57-years-old, the player was reportedly showing signs of brain injury. According to the report, the player suffered from numerous concussions and head injuries throughout his athletic career. The autopsy revealed a diagnosis of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which reportedly develops in cases of repeated concussions.
Rugby is an aggressive contact sport, and it reportedly carries one of the highest concussion rates among similar sports. Though it is mostly played in European countries, its popularity is growing in the United States. The United Kingdom recently initiated an awareness campaign to educate rugby players about the potential risks of TBIs. Additionally, the International Rugby Board’s medical board reportedly created an assessment system for team doctors to efficiently recognize the signs of concussions. If a player does not pass a series of memory, balance and cognitive tests, they are disallowed from returning to play.
Dr. Michael Farrell is a brain pathologist at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, Ireland. He is quoted in the article as stating, “There remains limited awareness in clinics that the condition occurs in sports outside of boxing… With increased awareness of CTE, we would suggest the diagnosis might be considered in any patient presenting to dementia services with a prior history to exposure of TBI.”
What is CTE?
According to a report by Boston University, CTE is a degenerative disease, which means that it progressively worsens over time. It is generally found in people with multiple TBIs. Extensive studies have documented the prevalence of the condition in numerous sports. Boston University researchers explain that repetitive TBis can cause abnormal protein to accumulate inside of the brain. The protein causes the brain to decay, leading to numerous symptoms, including:
***Loss of memory
***Depression and Suicidal thoughts
***Aggressive behavior and inability to control impulses
***Loss of memory
***Confusion and lack of concentration
As stated in the Boston University article, these symptoms may take years to appear in a TBI patient. Unfortunately, it is presently diagnosable only after death. But its symptoms may be treatable if medical assistance is sought early enough.
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