leather helmets solves all
Probably not the way to go. Watch the rate of skull fractures and intracranial hemorrhages go up with leather helmets.
Look, I think we can all agree hitting one's head should be avoided. But, in my mind, it is completely irresponsible--and unethical--for UCLA to publicly speculate that Dorsett and others have CTE at this time. They are in the midst of trying to test/market/sell a ligand that detects proteinopathy in the brain that is being used FAs a proxy to speculate whether someone has CTE. But, so far the actual science does not support the theory, yet two groups of researchers have made a lot of money and fame by stoking fears about this stuff.
In the general population, it is not unusual for a 55-60-year old to experience memory loss.
In the general population, it is not unusual for 55+ yearl old men to experience depression (this is the most at-risk group for suicide in the U.S.)
In the general population, autopsy studies have revealed aggregation of tau on autopsy in otherwise perfectly healthy individuals who were cognitively and behaviorally intact. So the significance of tau in the brain remains unclear, and the association between repeated head trauma and this specific tauopathy is far from being established.
Dorsett may have early signs of dementia and certainly seems to be showing concerning signs of depression. Diagnostically, there are a host of plausible etiologies, all of which are far more empirically-sound and likely at this point than chalking it up to CTE.
In your opinion does smoking cause cancer?
The extant literature, both epidemiological and bench science, is quite rich in describing increased risk of cancer amongst smokers.
The same absolutely cannot be said about mTBI, concussions, and the proposed notion of CTE.
Please consult the consensus summary from the world's leading neuroscience experts who participated in the International Conference on Concussion in Sports (Zurich) this past year for an explanation about the incomplete science and lack of an established link between concussions and CTE. The vast majority of research up through today paints much less of an alarmist picture about the role of mTBI, concussions, and the development of catastrophic neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric outcomes.
I recall seeing in that Frontline that there's already a lot of literature on CTE in boxers, soldiers, and jockeys. Is this true and if so, what does this literature say about sub-concussive blows to the head and CTE (and I guess, more importantly, about CTE causing things like dementia)
The literature is mixed in this regard. Indeed, Frontline was correct in reporting on some studies--mostly with boxers dating back to Martland (1928) and the concept of dementia pugilistica--that make an association demonstrating a link between repeated head trauma and cognitive and/or psychiatric disturbance later in life. The assumption that they had CTE is entirely unsupported, but it does provide a valid framework to hypothesize, speculate, and conduct methodologically-sound research, which is being done far removed from the McKee and Omalu groups. What Frontline did not discuss is that there have been far greater number of studies that failed to establish a link between repetitive head trauma and cognitive/psychiatric disturbance. Regarding veterans, a 2008 study by the Institute of Medicine Committee on Gulf War and Health found no association between mTBI and cognitive, psychiatric, and social functioning outcomes.
A recent mortality study (Baron, 2012) of over 3000 retired football players also is informative in that they found fewer neuropsychiatric deaths (e.g., self-harm, violence) than would be expected in the general population. Grant Iverson also published a meta-analysis on this just this past year and concluded the same thing. Of the 3000 retired players, there was no significant difference in mortality of former NFL players due to nervous system and sensory organ disease.
Bottom line, the concussion/TBI literature does not strongly support any link with long-term effects. Furthermore, the significance of tau on the brain remains unclear, not to mention there is no evidence from the recent McKee and Omalu studies that (a) tau accumulated as a result of repetitive head trauma vs other risk factors and (b) that protein deposition was what drove the psychiatric or cognitive problems. CTE is just being thrown out there as a post-hoc explanation without any support for this except that that's what Omalu and McKee want everyone to believe.
Again, those two groups are on an island with this stuff relative to the larger neuroscience community who are angered by how casually they make proclamations without sufficient evidence (and contradictory evidence) to make such assertions. And it is unethical to tell Tony Dorsett or anyone that they have CTE because...they simply don't know.