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Penn football player had brain disease

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010



A University of Pennsylvania football player who took his life in April suffered a progressive brain disease often associated with players in the NFL.

Dr. Robert Stern and colleagues at Boston University examined Owen Thomas’ brain after his death.

They found signs of CTE, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. The progressive brain disease can lead to memory problems, erratic behavior and mood swings.

Stern: Repetitive head trauma, whether it’s concussions or sub-concussive blows to the brain cause CTE, we do know that, we just don’t know what else is required to make it so one person gets it and one person doesn’t.

Stern says linemen — like Thomas — take hard hits all the time.

Stern: That results to around 1,000 hits to the head per season. They might not have symptoms every play of every game or every practice, but the brain is still being jostled around in the skull.

Stern says there’s no way to know if CTE led to Thomas’ suicide. But the football player’s mother has said she’s convinced there was a link.

In this video produced at Boston University Katherine Brearley talks about her son’s CTE diagnosis.

Brearley: Now I would hope there’s some research into what happens with a developing young person with a lot of little jolts to the brain, so if some good can come out of this, if other younger athletes can be protected that would be a good legacy for Owen to leave.

Scientists are looking for ways to diagnose CTE before death.


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