Researchers have discovered evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in males who had participated in amateur contact sports in their youth.

In the Mayo Clinic study, published recently in the December issue of Acta Neuropathologica, researchers led by Kevin Bieniek, a predoctoral student in Mayo Graduate School’s Neurobiology of Disease program, examined the clinical records of 1,721 cases of CTE in the Mayo Clinic Brain Bank. (CTE can only be diagnosed posthumously.)

They found 66 males who had documented participation in contact sports during their youth and young adult years. Of these cases, 32% had CTE pathology when the researchers examined brain tissue. In comparison, none of the 198 brains of individuals without documentation of participation in contact sports, including 66 women, had CTE pathology, explains a media release from Mayo Clinic.

This study suggests a link between amateur contact sports—football, boxing, wrestling, rugby, basketball, baseball, and others played while in school—with the development of CTE, which when severe can affect mood, behavior and cognition. Scientists have also recently found evidence that professional football players are susceptible to CTE, which is caused by repetitive brain trauma, according to the release.

“The 32 percent of CTE we found in our brain bank is surprisingly high for the frequency of neurodegenerative pathology within the general population,” Bienek says in the release.

“If 1 in 3 individuals who participate in a contact sport goes on to develop CTE pathology, this could present a real challenge down the road,” he adds.

Bienek notes in the release that the study’s purpose is not to discourage children and adults from participating in sports. Rather, it is to remind everyone to use caution when it comes to protecting the head.

“Through CTE awareness, greater emphasis will be placed on making contact sports safer, with better protective equipment and fewer head-to-head contacts,” he states in the release.

[Source(s): Mayo Clinic, EurekAlert]