Study reveals former soccer and rugby players six times more likely to have a degenerative brain disease, CTE

A A new pioneering study of former football players and rugby players with dementia found that they were six times more likely to have a chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease associated with repetitive head trauma.

The research, conducted by dr. Willie Stewart of the University of Glasgow, followed a donation program that invited families and even former players themselves to allow brain examination after their death. All those studied had played football or rugby for a long time and had suffered from dementia.

The CTE, which was previously known as boxing dementia and can only be definitively diagnosed in post mortem, has long been associated with boxing, but increasingly also other contact sports, including American football, rugby and soccer. Symptoms can be confused during life with Alzheimer's or other types of neurodegenerative diseases.

The dott. Stewart and his team found CTE in about 75% of the brains of former football and rugby players they studied. This compares with a prevalence of approximately 12% CTE in the brains of people with dementia in the general population.

"They have a series of pathologies, but the only thing that is going through is amazing in the group we looked at, which actually reflects what was found in other places around the world, is that about three-quarters of them have this CTE pathology in their brains, "said Dr. Stewart.