As fall sports seasons start gearing up, the discussion about brain injuries, concussions, and other injuries begin to start again as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 135,000 sports related concussion cases in kids between the ages of 5 and 18 are reported each year in emergency rooms. Overall, about 1.7 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury each year and of those, more than 50,000 die.

A new study of professional and high and school athletes has concluded that those who suffer repeated blows to the head are at risk to develop a brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). This disease does not present itself until years later in the form of memory loss, mood disorders, and sometimes early dementia.

The disease was first documented in 2002 after UC Davis clinical professor Bennet Omalu examined the brain of former Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster. The current study used brain tissue from 17 deceased athletes and 3 high school football players.

After examining the tissue under a microscope, the researchers found plaques and protein tangles consistent with what is typically observed in Alzheimer's patients. The pattern however, was different. The tangles in an Alzheimer's patient are scattered throughout the brain in a fairly even distribution. The tangles found in the athletes' brains were found in concentrated pockets. Another notable distiction was that Alzheimer's patients are typically over 60 years old and all of the athletes were between the ages of 18 and 52.

Of the 17 tissue samples, researchers determined that 10 of the 14 professional athletes had CTE and 1 of the 3 high school players had CTE.

So far, the only way to find the disease is in an autopsy. Professor Omalu and his colleagues are working on ways to identify the disease in those that are still living in order to help develop drugs for treatment.

This study helps further the evidence that better head protection is needed for athletes of any age that engage in full contact sports. Being informed and knowing the signs of traumatic brain injuries is also key to prevention and treatment.

If you are in need of a Myrtle Beach SC traumatic brain injury attorney, Conway lawyer Dirk Derrick at the The Derrick Law Firm has been handling traumatic brain injury cases in Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, and Conway SC for over 23 years. Please call 843-248-7486 today.

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