AUSTIN (KXAN) — Next week, a controversial Will Smith movie opens called Concussion. It is about the growing alarm over brain damage known as CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) found in NFL players and others who play contact sports.
CTE can lead to memory loss, confusion, aggression and depression. The symptoms don’t turn up until years later and you can only test for it on the deceased, making it difficult to get accurate numbers.
A University of Michigan study of brains donated by former NFL players found CTE damage in 90 percent of them. But now a new Mayo Clinic study finds disturbing numbers of CTE damage in much younger athletes.
The scientists studied the brains of 66 athletes who played contact sports in high school or college and found brain damage in one-third of them. It had been thought that NFL type athletes were more susceptible because of the years of pounding by larger men but the Mayo Clinic finds the same damage in youth players.
Dr. John Bertelson, a neurologist at the Seton Brain & Spine Institute, says, “There’s no reason to think kids would be immune to these injuries but we don’t often think of high school age suffering enough injury to have these brain diseases.”
Sickness, deaths and suicides of older players, and the new Mayo Clinic study, have many calling for no contact sports for anyone under the age of 18.
“If a kid plays a game, even if they don’t have an obvious concussion, if they finish the game and come home and say ‘Mom I’m having headaches, I feel dizzy, I’m not feeling right,’ the parents should be aware of that and bring that observation to the coaches,” says Dr. Bertelson,
Since 2008, the Wall Street Journal reports participation in football at U.S. high schools has dropped off 5.4 percent. A comparative study of 198 donor brains of students who never played contact sports found none of them had CTE damage.