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New study links brain injuries to contact sports

Traumatic brain injuries can have a number of causes, from a simple fall to a serious auto accident. While most TBIs are the result of a single incident, a slower form of brain injury can occur from repeated blows to the head, such as those received from playing contact sports. The results of this slow build-up of brain damage can be severe and life changing, often affecting the sufferers' ability to work regularly. Receiving compensation for such an injury can be difficult, however, due to the need to prove a specific cause for the condition. For many though, a new study linking contact sports with brain injuries may be of some help.

The study, conducted by researchers with the Boston University School of Medicine, examined the brains of 85 soldiers and athletes who developed chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The study showed that there was a four-stage pattern in the development of the condition. The condition can progress from mild headaches and loss of attention to dementia and aggression, with sufferers sometimes resorting to suicide.

The study was done on the bodies of the former athletes and soldiers, as the progression remains undetectable in those still living. However, the research showed that the seriousness of the condition was related to the number of years the athlete participated in the contact sport, and comes about due to receiving many hits over the years rather than a few larger impacts.

Researchers hold out hope that tests can be developed with the help of the research results that can detect the damage in living patients. This could possibly allow medical personnel to catch the damage early enough to intervene.

Source: Reuters, "Study finds pattern in brain injuries linked to contact sports," Scott Malone, Dec. 3, 2012

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