Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), sometimes called “punch drunk syndrome,” is usually associated with boxers.

However, a new study published recently in Quarterly Journal of Medicine suggests a possible link between head injuries experienced among rugby union players and an increased risk of this neurodegenerative disease.

In the study, per a press release from Oxford University Press, Dr Michael Farrell—a consultant neuropathologist at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, Ireland—and colleagues present a case report of CTE occurring in a former amateur rugby union player who died at age 57, 6 years after displaying the first symptoms of neurological decline. CTE was not diagnosed in the patient during his lifetime, but was only discovered post-mortem.

According to the patient report, the release continues, the patient played rugby for most of his life, from early teens to age 50, and his level of play was just below international standard. His family noted in the patient report that, throughout his playing time, he experienced many head injuries and symptoms of mild concussion.

In their study, the release notes, Farrell and colleagues conclude that the current understanding of CTE needs to be reviewed, especially since, they say, concussion levels in rugby union are reportedly among the highest in contact sport.

However, Farrell says in the study, “despite increasing recognition of the association between concussion and CTE, confirmed cases remain few.”

“There remains limited awareness in clinics that the condition occurs in sports outside of boxing, “ he continues. “With increased awareness of CTE, we would suggest the diagnosis might be considered in any patient presenting to dementia services with a prior history to exposure of TBI.”

[Source(s): Oxford University Press, Science Daily]