CogniFit's Science blog: Brain Trauma And Amateur Athletes

Brain Trauma And Amateur Athletes

Recent news items have brought to light the increased incidence of Alzheimer’s and other brain-related diseases in retired professional football players. The high incidence of brain disorders and cognitive decline is thought to be caused by the many head traumas professional football players receive during their careers.

Recent evidence has come out that shows that college and even high school players, players who never make it to the pro leagues, may be facing these same risks. It also raises the question of whether coaches, schools and parents are doing enough to protect their children and players from head trauma and the related cognitive decline in their brain function.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a type of brain tissue damage caused by head trauma. It is generally associated with boxers and professional football players. It has a terrible effect on the lives of players and causes irregular protein deposits and neurofibrillary tangles. It has been found in the brain tissue of former NFL players who have died early (it can only be found through an autopsy).

The disease kills brain cells involved in executive function and mood moderation, and only physical trauma causes the disease. The changes caused in the brain are extreme and are found throughout the brain. Still, such brain trauma may not be exclusive to professional players, but may be prevalent among high school and college players too and could affect other cognitive abilities.

99% of football players in the US are college players and below, high school and youth leagues. These younger players receive no salary for playing and they may not have access to the best medical care. Yet, they may be at risk for terrible brain damage because of their playing football.