MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Kevin F. Bieniek, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine
Joe R. & Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine
Director, Biggs Institute Brain Bank Core
Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer’s & Neurodegenerative Diseases
University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio
San Antonio, Texas 78229
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Would you briefly explain what is meant by CTE?
Response: CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that is linked to prior exposure to repetitive traumatic brain injuries. CTE pathology, characterized by a distinct deposition pattern of the protein ‘tau’, is most often observed in the brains former contact sport athletes and military veterans. The public health impacts of this disorder are largely unknown, as this disease is often studied in individuals which advanced levels of exposure, particularly professional American football player.
This study aimed to understand what the presence of this disorder might be in the general population by studying athletes and non-athletes, a number of different sports, different levels of participation, and both males and females.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: Definitive or suggestive CTE pathology was observed in the brains of 42 / 750 autopsies (5.6%). Brains with CTE pathology were more likely to be former athletes and men. Of all the sports studied, football was the only sport associated with the presence of CTE pathology (15%), with football participation beyond the high school level linked to the greatest risk of harboring this pathology.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: While frequencies of this disorder are not as high in amateur athletes compared to professional athletes, CTE pathology (of various levels of severity) is still observed in a small, yet significant, number of cases. Identifying sports with higher frequencies of this pathology, in this instance football, will help inform our practice of making these activities safer for participants by mitigating sources of injuries and properly treating them when they occur.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: We hope this study can serve as a basis for future prospective and epidemiological studies of CTE. There are many outstanding question related to the determinants of this disease as it relates to repetitive sports-related traumatic brain injuries.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Response: To advance CTE research, balanced and empirical research studies (particularly autopsy studies) are strongly needed rather than opinions, anecdotes, and speculation. As CTE discoveries continue to be uncovered, we look forward to science-based solutions to protect athletes and treat/cure this devastating disorder. The authors have no disclosures to report.
Kevin F. Bieniek, Melissa M. Blessing, Michael G. Heckman, Nancy N. Diehl, Amanda M. Serie, Michael A. Paolini, Bradley F. Boeve, Rodolfo Savica, R.Ross Reichard, Dennis W. Dickson. Association between contact sports participation and chronic traumatic encephalopathy: a retrospective cohort study. Brain Pathology, 2019; DOI: 10.1111/bpa.12757
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