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Doctors say link between repeated impacts and CTE is unproven

No.55 jersey seen on display at Qualcomm Stadium as part of "Celebration of Life" memorial, held in memory of Seau in San Dieg Reuters

Doctors who have studied the brains of several deceased NFL players have diagnosed them with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. But a new study says that a link between CTE and repeated impacts in football and other contact sports has not been proven.

A panel of experts who studied all of the available evidence recently released a statement that “the speculation that repeated concussion or subconcussive impacts cause CTE remains unproven.”

The suicides of former NFL players Junior Seau, Dave Duerson and Ray Easterling, and the subsequent findings of CTE when researchers examined their brains, have led to widespread concerns that collisions on the football field are leading to depression and other health consequences later in life. But a statement published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine said a “cause and effect relationship has not as yet been demonstrated between CTE and concussions or exposure to contact sports.”

That conclusion has been criticized by Dr. Robert Cantu, a Boston University researcher who has been one of the leading voices in the study of the effects of concussions. Cantu told the Newark Star-Ledger the new study provides important insight but gets the conclusions wrong.

“The whole breadth of the document is large, and 99 percent of it it I strongly support. But that part of it, I don’t support at all. Frankly, it stunned me,” Cantu said.

In other words, we’re a long way off from any kind of medical consensus about the extent to which contact on the football field leads to brain damage later in life.

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26 Responses to “Doctors say link between repeated impacts and CTE is unproven”
  1. amg503 says: Mar 17, 2013 12:42 PM

    Your headline should say “NFL-paid doctors say…” there is no link.

    Kind of like those defense expert witnesses who trend to contradict science in the name of a paycheck.

  2. mustbechris says: Mar 17, 2013 12:49 PM

    News alert: lobbyists pay scientists to say global warming is “contested” too.

  3. thesmartest1 says: Mar 17, 2013 12:51 PM

    Lawyers everywhere are scurrying…

  4. nagaswan says: Mar 17, 2013 12:51 PM

    Wasn’t CTE identified because of boxers?

  5. germanstingray says: Mar 17, 2013 12:54 PM

    Some of Dr. Cantu’s shock must come from the realization that he won’t yet be able to collect tens of millions dollars in expert witness fees from the blizzard of concussion lawsuits filed against the NFL.

  6. gallopingfar says: Mar 17, 2013 12:58 PM

    Why do we need a British Dr. to tell us about CTE? I’ll take the Boston University Dr. findings.
    Many NFL players are donating their to BU for study after they pass away.

  7. gallopingfar says: Mar 17, 2013 12:59 PM

    Woops, their brains are being donated.

  8. petehemlock says: Mar 17, 2013 1:11 PM

    It could come from excessive weight lifting.

  9. barrywhererufrom says: Mar 17, 2013 1:25 PM

    @Mustbechris actually all those emails from global warming scientists’ saying themselves that the data did not match may have something to do with global warming being contested

  10. purplepunisher says: Mar 17, 2013 1:25 PM

    Someone please send this report to the league offices so they can stop turning the NFL into the “Not Football League”.

    If the NFL changes the rules any further to avoid contact I will have to stop watching this pretend football league and become a college football fan.

  11. purplepunisher says: Mar 17, 2013 1:35 PM

    You don’t see boxing going to bigger gloves and head harnesses do you? No! because that would ruin the sport which is exactly what these new NFL rules have been doing.

  12. louhudson23 says: Mar 17, 2013 1:53 PM

    According to the medical experts who constantly post on this subject,players are well aware of the potential for brain damage and continue to play anyway. Now these yimyaps conclude there is no link…..which should at least shut up the first group of idiots for a little while. I assume these “Doctors are on loan from the tobacco companies and climate change deniers….

  13. coolhandluke1 says: Mar 17, 2013 1:55 PM

    Doctors and Lawyers not withstanding, it does not take a large leap of faith to conclude that repeated hits to the head over a long period of time may have adverse effects. So many of these arguments are like debating the origin and existence of gravity.

  14. anicra says: Mar 17, 2013 2:09 PM

    Problem is : There is zero peer review of this material. No double blind nada. The whole thing is taken on face value. Would the results be different if these researcher where given unknown brain samples of people with
    1) Car Accidents of 4 or more during their lifetime
    2) Long term use of corticosteroids (Non athletics)
    3) Pilots or Astronauts flying at greater Mach 3
    4) People who have played other sports beside football
    5) Any high risk job or other ideas people can come up with
    6) Random people with no concussions in their lifetime (control group)
    What would be the outcome?

  15. descendency says: Mar 17, 2013 2:23 PM

    There are scientists who are skeptical of gravity too.

    At this point I think we are better off trying to avoid massive and repetitive hits to the head instead of debating whether it causes CTE or not.

  16. thingamajig says: Mar 17, 2013 2:44 PM

    The NFL just breathed a big sigh of relief.

  17. 4thqtrsaint says: Mar 17, 2013 2:54 PM

    Yeah, because CTE happens all the time to insurance salesmen, lawyers, bankers, graphic designers, computer programmers, etc.

    This is as stupid as when cigarette companies tried to say smoking didn’t cause cancer… And I smoke.

  18. gairzo says: Mar 17, 2013 3:17 PM

    What do car accidents have to do with linemen/RBs/LBs banging helmets everyday in practice and, more intensely during games?

    Steroid use has, in no study I know of, never been linked to brain damage of the kind we see in footballs players.

    Pilots, other athletes do not experience the constant, repeating blows to the head most NFLers do. Keep in mind the games intensifies as the season goes on.

    Further, how many tragic stories of golfers hockey players, roundballers, or MLBers have we heard of in the last ten years, committing suicide or getting Alzheimers when they’re are 50?

    How many suicides in our Armed forces are due to pilots?…Far fewer than young grunts who face lethal danger every day.

    Compare those answers to hows many NFLers have died by their own hand or whose brains have turned to mush.

    The NFL should bite the wallet and settle all claims, require waivers and consent forms from every player–and stop changing the game so fans like us don’t one day say “enough’ and walk away.

    Only after they start losing die-hards like us, will the NFL get rid of Goodell and his minions.

  19. northshorejag says: Mar 17, 2013 3:44 PM

    There was also no link between smoking and lung damage, until there was.

    Until then it was just a coincidence that Olympic runners did not smoke.

  20. trevor123698 says: Mar 17, 2013 3:50 PM

    I will bet anything the doctors are right in this case

  21. kindasporty says: Mar 17, 2013 4:50 PM

    The study simply says that the link is “unproven”. This doesn’t mean that they are saying there is no link.

  22. micknangold says: Mar 17, 2013 4:55 PM

    Saying it’s unproven doesn’t mean it’s not still possible. Absence of evidence isn’t evidence of abscence.

  23. mogogo1 says: Mar 17, 2013 5:36 PM

    It’s going to take quite a while for science to catch up because concussions were under-reported or outright ignored for so long. They’re not even going to be able to decide if the incidence of concussions is going up or down for a good long time. It’s just like the explosion in autism–is it really more common, or is it just that it is being diagnosed much more readily than before?

  24. matt14gg says: Mar 17, 2013 6:26 PM

    “anicra” said it perfectly.

    Assuming something is true is not the same as proving something is true. Do I believe constant head on collisions are bad for the brain? Of course. That said there has not been a single scientific study that has followed the generally accepted practices required to prove an assumption. The BU study and that knucklehead Chris Nowinski’s studies have all been based on pre-conceived biases that make the studies faulty.

    There is a murder trial going on in the Boston area right now where the defense of the young man, who was a high school football player at the time he killed his girlfriend, is…you guessed it…CTE. That’s correct, the defense attorney is blaming high school football for this kid killing his girlfriend. It’s ridiculous.

    They can study ex-football player’s brains all they want. Until they do a controlled study, with a large sample size of the population,as a whole, including the million or so other lifestyle issues that may play a role, these “studies” are nothing more than elaborate, well financed, “opinions”.

  25. cometkazie says: Mar 17, 2013 7:09 PM

    Well put, Matt.

  26. triccshot says: Mar 18, 2013 1:36 AM

    Really???!!!. like really really for real really? Wher im from, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck; Then safest bet says its a duck. Sometimes you scientist and hyper-educated doctors can be so smart that you become dumb!
    And whether the players make a choice or not, from peewee to pros, get off the bs cuz all those players are somebodies kids. And i for one wouldnt want to hear a doctor or lawyer spouting this study back at me when im worrying about the health of my child.
    Eff a research that leads to more questions and no answers. You just wasted your time and ours. I hate this pass the buck age!

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