Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Found In Brains of Non-Professional Athletes

Kevin Bieniek

Kevin Bieniek Interview with:
Kevin Bieniek B.Sc.

Biology and Psychology
Neuroscience researcher
Mayo Clinic’s campus in Florida. 

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response:  Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder linked to repetitive traumatic brain injury often sustained through contact sports and military blast exposure.  While CTE was first described in boxers in the 1920s, to date many descriptions of CTE have been made in high-profile professional athletes, but the frequency of Chronic traumatic encephalopathy pathology in athletes with more modest contact sports participation is unknown.  For this study, researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL examined the Mayo Clinic Brain Bank, one of the largest brain banks of neurodegenerative diseases.  In searching through medical records of over 1,700 patients, 66 individuals with clinically-documented contact sports participation were identified.  Of these 66 former athletes, 21 or 32% had pathologic changes in their brains consistent with CTE.  By comparison, none of 198 control individuals that did not have contact sports documentation in their medical records (including 66 women) had CTE pathology.  These results have been recently published in the December issue of the journal Acta Neuropathologica <<hyperlink:

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: For the scientific public and researchers, the goal of this study is to illustrate that chronic traumatic encephalopathy pathology can be a common finding amongst athletes in brain banks.

For clinicians and patients, the goal of this study is to increase chronic traumatic encephalopathy awareness.  In recognizing CTE as a pathology that is not simply restricted to professional athletes, active involvement in limiting head-to-head contact, monitoring athletes after concussions, and creating better protective equipment will help protect those who play.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Accordingly, the more  chronic traumatic encephalopathy cases found in other brain banks will result in larger cohorts for future in-depth studies and analyses of these cases.

The study authors do not want to discourage children and adults from participating in sports due to the great physical and mental health benefits they provide; rather by informing the public of their results, they hope to help keep young athletes safe.


December 2015   Acta Neuropathologica

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Kevin Bieniek B.Sc. (2015). Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Found In Brains of Non-Professional Athletes 

Last Updated on December 2, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD