Traumatic Injury and Genetics

I found this article at CNN interesting:

(CNN)Scientists have zeroed in our genetic code to better determine why some people develop chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the Alzheimer’s-like disease associated with repeated hits to the head. In a new study, researchers at Boston University’s CTE Center say that a variant of the gene TMEM106B may influence why some people experience more severe forms of the disease than others.

“Among people who have CTE, people with this [genetic] variation are 2.5 times more likely to develop dementia,” said Dr. Jesse Mez, assistant professor of neurology at Boston University’s School of Medicine. Mez was a co-author of the study, published Saturday in the journal Acta Neuropathologica Communications.

Mez said the findings, though early, are a step toward better understanding of the disease. “It helps us better understand biologically, mechanistically, what is going on in the brain in CTE.
“In understanding the mechanism and in identifying this genetic risk factor, we have new potential targets to develop therapies,” he said.

The authors point out that their findings need to be further investigated in a larger group and replicated to make any definitive conclusions.

My interpretation of all of this is that CTE is multifactorial in its causes and that as our tools become better that is likely to be the case for all sorts of ailments that are presently thought to be caused by pathogens or lifestyle diseases.

I doubt that will save football, however. I strongly suspect that within a decade youth football (pre-high school) will largely have vanished and that high school football won’t be far behind. That will have a cascade effect on professional football.

6 comments… add one
  • Gray Shambler Link

    You’d have to pay a LOT to get people in that study.
    Seriously, that reminds me of Richard Speck, who had a long history of brain trauma before he went on his killing spree.
    AND, I wonder if O.J.’s dream team ever tossed the idea around. Might have during sentencing if he had been found guilty.

  • steve Link

    Pretty small study to use for drawing any real conclusions, but genetic predisposition looks like a big factor in many problems. Look at opioid addiction. Most people take opioids and isn’t a big deal. Some take them a few times and they are hooked. Hard to explain that as anything but having a genetic component.



  • bob sykes Link

    The problem with American football is the high speed collisions. The collisions are facilitated by the helmet and pads. Rugby doesn’t have the collision problem, although players get broken noses and fingers and sometimes more serious injuries like dislocations and broken legs.

    So get rid of the helmets and pads.

    One way to save football would be to evolve it backwards to its roots in rugby. You could still have the deep passes and some blocking and tackling.

    The same problem arose in boxing once gloves were adopted. Bare knuckle boxing (there is a small revival underway) was all about body shots. A hit to the head would usually break a hand. Championship fights were endurance contests lasting 45 rounds (3 hours).

  • I think “evolve” is the operative word. American football has evolved in a very problematic direction. The average NFL lineman weighs 312 lb. Mass times acceleration and all of that. The human body just wasn’t built for that kind of force.

    As you note boxing, particularly heavyweight boxing, has similar problems. Today it’s basically two guys lobbing sandbags at each other.

    In rugby the likelihood of severely traumatic injury is reduced but, sadly, not eliminated. I have a friend who became a quadriplegic playing rugby. Spinal fracture.

    IMO football is doomed. Equipment changes wouldn’t solve the problem. There would need to be weight limitations, too. The present offensive and defensive line strategies would be unworkable with the equipment changes.

  • Gray Shambler Link

    That was Mike Ditka’s comment, “Take away the helmets”.

  • Gray Shambler Link

    “Doomed”. They’re fighting back, I see the next Chiefs-
    Rams game is to be played in Mexico City.

Leave a Comment