While data continues to pile up on a direct relationship between head impacts and brain damage in players of contact sports, it has been a great frustration to athletes and doctors that no reliable test exists for early detection of such devastating injuries, which can take years to fully manifest after the triggering trauma. To date, proof that an athlete’s memory problems and dementia relate to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, as the disease is known, can only be found via autopsy after a victim dies.
However, as reported by the New York Times, a new study conducted on NFL players offers a new hope for early detection of CTE — a linguistic test that examines changes in the ways players speak and converse, changes that the study indicates can be seen and tracked years before full symptoms appear. What’s more, if the new testing is validated, it could also provide a valuable way to measure the effectiveness of treatments to slow or prevent the cognitive damage associated with CTE injuries.
Though the initial study — which focused on vocabulary decline observed over 8 years in players who spoke at news conferences — was quite small, examining records for only ten NFL professional athletes, its potential is very strong. As the approach gets expanded testing, the potential benefits might well extend beyond professional sports to provide tools for examining head injuries by soldiers and even victims of domestic violence, as well as numerous other neurological disorders. This could include those at risk for Alzheimer’s, a disease which frustrates doctors and other experts because many feel a lack of early detection means treatments come too late for effectiveness.
As the Times notes, “For decades, doctors said they believed that CTE was limited to boxers. It was called punch-drunk syndrome. More recently, pathologists have reported similar brain damage among a wider range of athletes,” like rugby, football, and hockey players. The new study’s team even pointed to data they found in former President Reagan’s speech patterns during televised appearances, changes they found were linked to the early onset of Reagan’s Alzheimer diagnosis years before his 1994 diagnosis.
Of the 10 players examined by the new study, seven showed a decline in at least one of the two indexes for cognitive decline. Though numerous factors can affect anyone’s speech on a given day, the study reviewed interviews over multiple appearances over a series of years, revealing consistent patterns the researchers feel provide valuable and dependable data.
Read the full article on the New York Times site.
NFL Players CTE Injuries Lawsuit
Lieff Cabraser represents former professional football players and their spouses in a class action lawsuit seeking damages for the painful and debilitating injuries the players suffered from repetitive head traumas during their careers in the NFL. The injuries include concussions and repeated head impacts, traumatic brain injuries, and latent neurodegenerative disorders and diseases.
The complaint further seeks to recover fair compensation for the players’ spouses from the loss of companionship, affection, and support the spouses have suffered due to their husbands’ injuries. For those players that have not yet evidenced the long term physical and mental effects of repetitive head traumas, the complaint seeks the establishment of a medical monitoring program. This program would provide specialized testing for the early detection of the long term effects of repetitive head traumas. Contact us about your case or learn more about the NFL concussions lawsuit.