Mixed pathologies, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy, account for dementia in retired association football (soccer) players

Principal Investigators: Dr Helen Ling, Professor Huw Morris, Dr James Neal, Professor Andrew Lees, Professor John Hardy, Professor Janice Holton, Professor Tamasz Revesz, Dr Don Williams
Institution: Queen Square Brain Bank, UCL Institute of Neurology, Cardiff University, Cefn Coed Hospital Swansea
Status: Complete

This study examined former professional association football players with a past history of repetitive head impacts and found chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) as the potential neurodegenerative cause of dementia and motor impairments.

From 1980 to 2010, 14 retired footballers with dementia were followed up regularly until death. Their clinical data, playing career and concussion history were prospectively collected. Next-of-kin provided consent for six to have post-mortem brain examination. The pathological diagnosis of CTE was established in four individuals according to the latest consensus diagnostic criteria.

Association football is the most popular sport in the world and the potential link between repetitive head impacts from playing football and CTE as indicated from these findings is of considerable public health interest. Clearly, a definitive link cannot be established in this clinico-pathological series, however, the findings support the need for further systematic investigation, including large-scale case–control studies.

Publication:
Ling et al. (2017). Acta Neuropathologica

News and Links:
Evidence of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in former Association football (soccer) players.
Video interview – Dr Helen Ling discuss Drake Foundation study on mixed pathologies in retired Association football players.