Study finds one-third of men who played contact sports had signs of brain damage

Jacksonville, FL – Participating in contact sports as a youth or young adult may lead to brain damage, according to a study from Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus.

As part of the study, researchers examined brain tissue for 66 men who played contact sports. They found 32 percent of the men to have suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, which can be diagnosed only after an individual has died. Meanwhile, researchers found no evidence of CTE in any of the 198 brains of individuals who did not participate in contact sports during their younger years.

Recent reports have shown the prevalence of CTE in deceased professional athletes. However, researchers said, the Mayo Clinic study was the first to use similar criteria to search for CTE in non-professional athletes. Those with CTE may suffer from problems related to mood, behavior and cognition.

“The purpose of our study is not to discourage children and adults from participating in sports because we believe the mental and physical health benefits are great,” lead author Kevin Bieniek said in a press release. “It is vital that people use caution when it comes to protecting the head.”

The study was published in the December issue of the journal Acta Neuropathologica.