Study-Contact Sports “Greatest Risk Factor for CTE

Original article here.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a brain disorder related to repetative traumatic brain injury is perhaps one of the most troubling risks associated with the world of contact sports. As the medical industry better understands this progressive disease the link between prolonged exposure to sub concussive blows and the disease becomes ever clearer. To this end a study was recently published in the journal Acta Neuropathologica showing just how strong the link is. 

In the study, titled “Chronic traumatic encephalopathy pathology in a neurodegenerative disorders brain bank” the authors accessed a brain bank and processed samples for tau immunohistochemistry. Medical records were cross referenced to determine if the samples came from individuals with a history of contact sports participation. The study revealed as follows

  • 21 of 66 former athletes had cortical tau pathology consistent with CTE
  • CTE pathology was not detected in 198 individuals without exposure to contact sports, including 33 individuals with documented single-incident TBI sustained from falls, motor vehicle accidents, domestic violence, or assaults
  • CTE pathology was only detected in individuals with documented participation in contact sports
  • The authors conclude that “exposure to contact sports was the greatest risk factor for CTE pathology”.

The most surprising aspect of this study is folks who sustained acute TBI from non sporting activities did not have CTE.

This is strong evidence that the repeated sub concussive blows in contact sports are the culprit. This study is very strong evidence that combat sports athletes should not engage in hard sparring as part of routine training and should all but eliminate any head impacts during training.