A study looking at the brain of a now-deceased college football player who first experienced a concussion when he was 8 years old could lead to establishing a baseline of cognitive symptoms to help identify chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Currently, CTE can only be found in autopsy after a player's death.
A study published Monday in JAMA Neurology shows the health effects that occur after years of chronic head trauma caused by football may occur in players younger than was previously thought.
The study chronicles the case of Michael Keck, 25, a college player who died in 2013 from cardiac arrest due to an infection. He requested that his brain be donated to researchers at Boston University School of Medicine for study upon his death.
“Focal lesions of CTE have been found in athletes as young as 17 years,” researchers wrote. “However, widespread CTE pathology, as found in this case, is unusual in such a young football player.”
Keck experienced more than 10 concussions during his 16 years of playing amateur football, with the first occurring at age 8, according to the JAMA article.
In his freshman year in college, Keck reportedly suffered a concussion that rendered him unconscious. He began experiencing ongoing symptoms that included memory loss, headaches, neck pain and blurred vision, which eventually led him to stop playing by his junior year. He left school just short of graduating.
Keck underwent a neuropsychological evaluation prior to his death, which researchers say marks the first published case of CTE where such testing was done.
Researchers are excited about the light this case sheds on identifying CTE before death.
“It remains to be determined whether impairment in learning and executive function with preserved verbal episodic retrieval is a common presentation of CTE,” researchers noted.
CTE is a degenerative condition that comes as a result of repeated brain trauma. Much attention has been given over the past decade between the repetitive head hits experienced playing a number of sports, including football, soccer and hockey, and the number of players who have ended up developing the condition.
The first cases of CTE among professional football players were discovered 10 years ago by forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu, which is the basis for the recently released film, “Concussion.”