Study Reveals Hockey Players Have An Increased Risk Of Degenerative Brain Disease

Experts have known that repeated hits to the head, especially those resulting from contact sports, are dangerous. At one time, concussions were a primary concern. Cleveland Clinic reports that concussions are somewhat easy to identify because they can cause a headache, dizziness, confusion, and nausea. But what about other hits to the head that don't cause symptoms? These kinds of hits are called subconcussive hits, and they can cause damage over time without ever producing any outward symptoms.

However, researchers are now looking at the impacts of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease due to repeated head trauma (per Mayo Clinic). While there is still much to learn about how trauma to the head affects the brain, research shows that it may be more dangerous than once believed. And a new study from Boston University shows that hockey players are at a higher risk for developing CTE.

The chances of developing CTE increase with every year hockey is played

The study found that there was a 23% risk of developing CTE every year the sport was played. Additionally, they found a 15% chance of progression to the next CTE stage for each additional year, according to U.S. News & World Report. Since CTE can't be diagnosed in the living, researchers examined the brains of 74 donor bodies who had played ice hockey at some point in their lives. Results showed that 54% of them had CTE. Dr. Jesse Mez, associate professor of neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center Clinical Core associate director, Boston University School of Medicine, said repeated hits over the course of years increase the risk of CTE.

Like the disease itself, symptoms of CTE develop over years, yet they do not occur in all people who experience repeated hits to the head. In addition, some symptoms may not become more pronounced until later in life. CTE can cause memory loss, problems with thinking, planning, and performing certain tasks. It is also linked to aggression and mood disorders. There is currently no treatment for CTE, but it can be prevented by reducing the amount of trauma to the head (via Mayo Clinic).