Evidence of brain damage found in former footballers
Scientists may have provided explanation why some footballers always end up with a mental health challenge.
Evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a potential cause of dementia caused by repeated blows to the head, has been found in the brains of former association football (soccer) players examined at the UCL Queen Square Brain Bank. The study, funded by The Drake Foundation and published in the journal Acta Neuropathologica, looked at 14 retired footballers with dementia who were referred to the Old Age Psychiatry Service in Swansea, Wales, between 1980 and 2010.
Permission from their next-of-kin was provided to perform post-mortem examinations, which were carried out in six ex-players. Post-mortem analysis of the brain was carried out by researchers from UCL and the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery.
The team identified CTE pathology in four of the six brains examined, and all six also had signs of Alzheimer’s disease. The rate of CTE identified in the footballers’ brains exceeds the 12 per cent average background rate of CTE found in a previous survey of 268 brains of an unselected population at the Queen Square Brain Bank. Like Alzheimer’s disease, CTE can cause dementia and they are both characterised by a build-up of abnormal tau protein in the brain, but CTE causes tau to accumulate in a distinctive pattern.