Concussion shock: Brain disease CTE found in two former Australian rugby league players
June 27, 2019 12:24pm
Source: FOX SPORTS
The brain disease CTE has been found in two former rugby league players.
In a groundbreaking study, researchers have discovered a brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) — linked to repeated head trauma — in the brains of two former Australian rugby league players.
The disease is widely associated with NFL in America and has been historically commonly referred to as ‘punch drunk’ to describe neurological defects of former boxers believed to be caused by repeated head impacts.
Researchers from Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, NSW Health Pathology and the University of Sydney’s Brain And Mind Centre examined the brains of two middle-aged dead former rugby league players, both of whom played over 150 first grade games. Their identities have not been released.
The study published in the international neuropathology journal Acta Neuropathologica Communications on Thursday claims the incidents are the first reported cases of CTE in rugby league players in the world, and the second and third cases of the disease in Australian sportspeople.
“The changes in the two brains were distinctive, definitive, and met consensus diagnostic criteria for CTE,” said Clinical Associate Professor Michael Buckland, lead author, head of the RPA Neuropathology Department and head of the Molecular Neuropathology Program at the Brain and Mind Centre.
“I have looked at about 1000 brains over the last 10 years, and I have not seen this sort of pathology in any other case before.
“The fact that we have now seen these changes in former rugby league players indicates that they, and likely other Australian collision sports players, are not immune to CTE, a disease that has gained such high profile in the United States.
This is a landmark study for Australian sport as there is a distinct lack of research or clinical findings into the brain disease, which can present symptoms of behavioural or mood disturbances and depression, confusion, difficulty balancing and personality changes.
Active research is taking place in the USA into the presence of the disease and its impact on NFL players, a topic that was covered in the 2015 movie ‘Concussion’.
CTE can only be unequivocally diagnosed via autopsy.
The study found that ‘Case 1’ had a successful career after retirement, and had been working up until his death. He did not abuse tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs.
However, family members reported increasing reliance on memory aides for daily activities in the years prior to death, and recent difficulties remembering details of a significant life event. ‘Case 2’ had some issues during his transition to a post-playing career, but was productively employed up until his death.
The NRL has made giant strides towards protecting players against concussion in recent years, as well as tightening protocols and increasing awareness of the dangers of repeated concussions with club medical staff.
Two doctors are at each NRL game and perform compulsory head injury assessments to detect signs of concussion.