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Researchers to look for link between stunt work and CTE

Photo: visual7/iStockphoto

Athens, OH — “Scientists suspect that about 80% of stunt performers have experienced one or more serious head impacts while working.” That’s why an Ohio University professor is working with researchers at the Boston University Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center to look at the brains of film and TV stunt performers.

Jeff Russell of the Ohio University College of Health Sciences and Professions will help examine the donated brains for signs of CTE. A neurodegenerative disease associated with repeated blows to the head, CTE can affect athletes who participate in high-contact sports such as boxing and football.

An Ohio University press release notes that around 9,000 stunt performers work in the entertainment industry, and they’re thought to be at high risk for CTE because of exposure to repeated head trauma. Among the researchers’ goals is to try to diagnose CTE in living stunt performers so the condition can be treated and, in turn, improve their well-being.


Stunt performers are critical to the TV and motion picture industries and “should receive the same type of attention, health care and research that sports athletes receive,” Russell said in a press release.

Lori Stewart is a stuntwoman, a health and safety performer advocate for the Union of British Columbia Performers, and one of the community-engaged co-investigators in the research group. “Participating in this research provides an opportunity for current performers to play an important role in the reduction of risk and treatment of head injuries for future stunt performing generations,” Stewart said.

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