Brain-damaged athletes suffer from impaired mood, thinking

Sports persons like footballers and boxers who typically play head strokes are likely to get head blows that effects them in one of two major ways, a new study suggests

According to the findings of the study, early signs of destructive brain disease might include mood changes in younger ages and mental decline later in life.

“This is the largest study to date of the clinical presentation and course of neurodegenerative disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in autopsy-confirmed cases of the disease,” study author Dr. Robert A. Stern, a professor of neurology and neurosurgery at Boston University School of Medicine, said.

The study
For the purpose of the study, researchers at the Boston University’s School of Medicine examined brains of 36 deceased male athletes who were between the ages of 17 and 98. None of the deceased athlete had a confirmed neurological disease, like Alzheimer’s.

While a majority of the athletes were amateur or professional football players, others played hockey, wrestling and boxing.

Athletes’ family members were interviewed. They provided insights about the player’s life and medical history, specifically picking up points like presence of dementia-like symptoms, changes in thinking, memory, behavior, mood, motor skills or the ability to carry out everyday activities.

Researchers carried out neurological examinations of the brains of the deceased athletes.

Of the 36 deceased athletes, 22 had behavior and mood problems as their first symptoms, researchers found. However, 11 started experiencing memory and thinking problems first. Only 3 athletes showed no symptoms at all.

On average, memory and thinking problems surfaced first at the age of 59, while behavior and mood problems surfaced much earlier, at age 35.

Patients in the mood and behavior group were more “explosive, out of control and violent verbally and physically”, as compared to those in the memory and thinking group, researchers highlighted.

Also, 86 percent of those in the mood and behavior group reported depression as against only 18 percent of those who experienced memory troubles first.

“The study itself is relatively preliminary, [but] we found two relatively distinct presentations of the disease,” study co-author Daniel Daneshvar, a postdoctoral researcher at Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, said. “So little is known about the clinical presentation of CTE that anything we found is not necessarily surprising, simply because there’s a dearth of information about CTE.” “One of our primary goals is to be able to diagnose this disease in life,” Stern said to CBS News’ Jericka Duncan.

“One of our primary goals is to be able to diagnose this disease in life,” Stern concluded.

The findings of the study are published online Aug. 21 in the journal Neurology,