Thinking about CTE



If I could play pro football or hockey, I would. I say this fully understanding the health risks professional athletes, especially hockey and football players, face.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a degenerative disease caused by the accumulation of tau protien. Tau protien can collect after the brain is essentially bruised through a concussion or other head injuries common in football and hockey. CTE can cause agression, depression, dementia and memory loss. Currently, CTE can only be detected by dissecting the brain tissue after death.

A study by the U.S. government and Boston University on the brains of 91 former NFL players found that 87 of them had CTE. The study also involved 165 brains from athletes who had played pro, semi-pro, college or high school football, 131 of which had CTE.

This news comes just over two years after the NFL reached a $765 million settlement with 18,000 retired players. Meanwhile, a group of 4,500 former players accused the NFL of hiding the danger of head injuries from players and the public while profiting from bone-crushing highlight reel hits.

A few weeks ago, the wife of Rod Woodward, who played in the CFL for 12 years and was a three-time all-star, joined a proposed class action lawsuit against the CFL. She claims that repeated head injuries altered his behavior and caused him to steal $185,000 from two of his investment firms’ clients.

Korey Banks and Eric Allen, former CFL players who were hospitalized for concussions during their careers, originally filed the pending lawsuit. They’re asking for $200 million in damages and for a judge to award more to family members of the affected player.

But CTE isn’t just a big issue in football.

A group of about 80 former NHL players is suing the league. These players believe the NHL should have allowed them to be evaluated by independent doctors and not allowed them to return to play before their brains were fully healed.

Earlier this year, scientists found new ways to detect the tau protein without dissecting the brain, essentially meaning it may soon be possible to detect CTE in live players.

Tim Campbell of the Winnipeg Free Press asked some of the Winnipeg Jets if they would take these tests if and when they’re available. Most said they would but admitted it would be a difficult decision. Jets forward Anthony Peluso said he would not.

Sometimes ignorance is bliss, but this is not one of those cases. I’ve had a handful of concussions. If I could be tested for CTE, I would, even if there was nothing I could do about it. But I understand where Mr. Peluso is coming from.

Thinking you might have a degenerative brain disease is terrifying.