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Researchers confirm Albuquerque soccer player had brain trauma

Brain injuries occur every day in New Mexico and the rest of the country as a result of car accidents, truck accidents and motorcycle accidents, but also from recreational activities like organized sports.

Researchers are only beginning to uncover the ways in which traumatic brain injuries can affect people’s health. In recent years, researchers have made many findings on the degenerative brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (C.T.E.).

The disease is typically associated with violent sports such as football, hockey and boxing; however, researchers have found that C.T.E. can also result from less-violent forms of activity that involve repeated hits to the head.

For example, researchers at Boston University and the VA Boston Healthcare System recently confirmed posthumously that a 29-year-old former soccer player from Albuquerque suffered from C.T.E. before he died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in April 2012.

The player, who had always been skillful at heading the soccer ball, began showing signs of C.T.E. in high school, his family said.

Some of the symptoms of the disease include depression, memory loss and problems controlling impulses. Eventually, these common symptoms give way to full-on dementia, scientists say. The Albuquerque soccer player’s parents say they think C.T.E. is what caused their son to develop ALS at such an early age.

The neuropathologist who examined the soccer player’s brain said he had “extensive frontal lobe damage.” She confirmed that the damage was in the same part of the head that is used to perform headers in soccer, but she said it would be premature to conclude that the headers were the cause.

Ultimately, the research is revealing just how incredibly delicate our brains really are, and how serious or repeated trauma can have lasting effects. 

Source: New York Times, “Brain Trauma Extends to the Soccer Field,” John Branch, Feb. 26, 2014.

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