UB led research study on concussions, CTE surprises players, research team


Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)  is the degenerative brain disease found in athletes. It could be much more rare than originally thought. 

That’s the result of a University at Buffalo study that examined former Bills and Sabres players. 

 Research on the damaging effects of CTE and its connection to concussions -has sparked debate over  contact sports, especially when it comes to kids. 

But the team at UB who led this study says evidence shows there is no reason to pull your kid out of football practice.

It wasn’t a question of “if” but when for former Buffalo Bills Wide Receiver Lou Piccone. 

He suffered concussions in his football days, and thought CTE was inevitable: 

Barry Willer co-led the research team for this study. He said, “When we started this study we truly believed we would see much higher rates of cognitive decline and dementia, and we simply didn’t find it.” 

Dr. John Leddy also co-led this study. He says the team was surprised at their findings. “The information coming out about CTE suggested that many, many players would suffer from chronic brain damage as a result of playing contact sports.”

But after examining 21 retired Bills and Sabres players, including Piccone, the UB team published papers on CTE, concussions and early onset dementia. “We basically found that there was no evidence of early dementia in the retired contact athletes,” said Leddy. 

The team says there’s a lot more we don’t know about cte than we do. Leddy says there could be a genetic trigger, that makes some athletes particularly prone to CTE. 

Piccone said, “Over the next few years, you’ll be able to pin it down, and see if there’s an indicator, see if there is a marker, see if there’s a genetic connection.” 

But right right now, Dr. Leddy says there’s no evidence that putting your kids in youth football programs will lead to brain damage. 

“The benefits of regular participation in sports, whether contact or not, so far, the evidence shows it far outweighs any risk of developing dementia from a contact sport.”

The UB research team compared brain health scans of the retired athletes to similar brain scans of a control group of 29 noncontact sport athletes. 

Dr, Leddy says to check back in 5 years as studies like this one continue, and we could be sharing a very different story. 

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