The link between contact sports and chronic traumatic encephalopathy has gained increased scrutiny in recent years, largely due to research into the subject by Dr. Ann McKee of Boston University. In this post, we discuss a recent publication from Dr. McKee’s team which used multiplex immunohistochemistry in combination with other approaches to gain a better understanding of the cellular and molecular changes in CTE brains.
In recent years, there’s been increasing interest in the risks of brain injury posed by contact sports, especially football. Individuals like college and professional football players, who are more likely to suffer repeated head injuries, are also at increased risk for developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). This neurodegenerative disorder is slow acting, and difficult to detect.
The symptoms of CTE can include memory loss, confusion, depression, anxiety, and progressive dementia — symptoms that overlap with many other neurological conditions. These signs typically appear years, even decades, after the last brain trauma. There is no definitive way to diagnose the disease in living patients with traditional brain imaging methods such as MRI or CT, nor is there any known treatment.
A great deal of the knowledge we do have on this disease can be credited to Ann McKee, MD, Professor of Neurology and Pathology at Boston University and Director of the BU Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center. In 2017, Dr. McKee led a widely publicized study which examined the brains of 202 football players posthumously. They found evidence of CTE in 110 of the athletes.