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To Your Health: NLM update Transcript

Brain death and concussions: 10/16/2017

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Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov

Regards to all our listeners!

I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D., senior staff, U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).

Here is what's new this week in To Your Health, a consumer health oriented podcast from NLM, that helps you use MedlinePlus to follow up on weekly topics.

Autopsies discovered 177 of 202 former North American professional football players had a brain degenerative disorder, reports a study and an accompanying editorial recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Specifically, the study's 27 researchers found most persons within a convenience sample of deceased professional football players had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, which may be linked to repeated brain concussions. CTE only can be diagnosed via an autopsy and pathology tests.

An editorial that accompanies the study notes the research (and we quote): 'represents the largest CTE cohort published to date. To put the size of the cohort in perspective, a comprehensive review published in 2009 identified a total of 48 cases of confirmed CTE [due to any cause] in the medical literature' (end of quote).

The researchers combined pathology tests with retrospective interviews about the athlete's symptoms, diagnoses, behavioral patterns, and other medical history.

The editorial's author writes (and we quote): 'the retrospective informant interviews conducted in the present study, in conjunction with prospective assessment of high-risk patients, contribute to the current understanding of the clinical features of CTE' (end of quote).

The editorial's author notes some of the possible contributing factors to CTE were treatable, such as high rates of substance abuse, headaches, and sleep disturbance. The editorial's author notes these and other patterns derived from the study may assist physicians and caregivers to better treat athletes as well as persons who have experienced a number of concussions. While the editorial adds the study provides new evidence about early stage CTE among some high school athletes, the study does not suggest a link between participation in high school football and subsequent neurological decline.

The editorial's author explains the research findings are limited to the participants (former athletes who agreed to donate their brain, post-mortem, to a brain bank of participating medical organizations within the greater Boston area).

The editorial's author concludes the remaining, fundamental questions about CTE include (and we quote): 'what is the incidence and prevalence of CTE in population-based samples? What is the magnitude of risk associated with participating (and allowing children to participate) in various contact sports' (end of quote).

While the editorial's author notes these among other issues need to be addressed by future research, he notes the history of CTE as a disorder (and we quote): 'can no longer be ignored by the medical profession and the public' (end of quote).

Meanwhile, the American College of Sports Medicine provides a website about concussion in sports that can be found in the 'specifics' section of MedlinePlus.gov's concussion health topic page. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a website about concussion in winter sports also within the 'specifics' section of MedlinePlus.gov's concussion health topic page.

MedlinePlus.gov's concussion health topic page additionally provides links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the 'journal articles' section. Clinical trials that may be occurring in your area can be found in the 'clinical trials' section. You can sign up to receive updates about concussions as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.

To find MedlinePlus.gov's concussion health topic page, please type 'concussion' in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov's home page, then, click on 'concussion (National Library of Medicine).' MedlinePlus.gov also contains health topic pages devoted to traumatic brain injury and head injuries.

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It was nice to be with you. Please join us here next week and here's to your health!