New Study: Repetitive Head Impacts Linked to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in Players

Stephen M. Smith
Last Updated:
September 1, 2022
A kid's head impacts the ground as he tries to tackle another kid while playing football.
A new study has determined with “conclusive evidence” that repetitive head impacts cause the degenerative brain disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). These new findings may redefine the way we think about youth sports, military service, and other connections with brain injuries.

Researchers from Harvard, UCLA, Michigan, and five other universities, as well as the Concussion Legacy Foundation (CLF), participated in the study. They found that athletes involved in contact sports like football and hockey were at least 68 times more likely to develop CTE than those who didn’t play such sports.

The research utilized the “Bradford Hill criteria” to analyze the data — a trusted set of nine benchmarks for determining causal relationships between environmental exposures and adverse health effects.

This high strength of association, supported by robust evidence in all benchmarks, is conclusive evidence of causation. Based on their findings, the authors of the study are calling on parents, sports leagues, and government officials to begin implementing CTE prevention efforts.

CTE and other brain injuries can be devastating for the patient and their families. If you or a loved one have been affected by any type of brain injury, contact Smith Law Center at (757) 244-7000 to schedule a free consultation. We have a long history of focusing specifically on traumatic brain injury cases.

Click here for a link to download the full study, “Applying the Bradford Hill Criteria for Causation to Repetitive Head Impacts and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.” Read on to learn more about the applications and implications of the study.

What Are Some Applications and Implications of the New Study?

An immediate application of the findings of the study is a renewed effort to increase awareness of CTE. Dr. Chris Nowinski, CEO and lead author in the study, said, “Sport governing bodies should acknowledge that head impacts cause CTE and they should not mislead the public on CTE causation while athletes die, and families are destroyed, by this terrible disease.”

A CLF press release states that the authors of the study were particularly concerned that young athletes and children were being exposed to preventable cases of CTE. Such unnecessary exposure to CTE may be due to global sports groups not relaying important information to coaches and parents.

Dr. Adam Finkel, another co-author of the study, said, “This analysis shows it is time to include repetitive head impacts and CTE among child protection efforts like exposure to lead, mercury, smoking, and sunburns.”

Liability Implications

Besides the awareness concerns, the study raises important questions about liability for various parties. Coaches, sports professionals, and other persons might now be held liable more frequently, especially if they knowingly subject young athletes to repetitive head impacts.

Liability can be linked to factors like excessive playing time on game days, overtraining in practice, and failure to follow concussion protocols. As more information and data is secured in the area of CTE, courts can make more detailed analyses of traumatic brain injury cases.

What is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)?

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, is a progressive and fatal disease that we now know is caused by repetitive head impacts. Examples of repetitive head impacts include:

  • Helmet contact in football
  • Checking in ice hockey
  • Heading the ball in soccer
  • Sustaining punches in boxing or mixed martial arts matches
  • Successive head blows in military combat action

CTE is not limited to professional athletes; it has also been found in athletes who did not continue playing sports after high school or college.

Currently, there are no tests to determine if a living individual has CTE — it can only be diagnosed through posthumous (after death) brain tissue analysis. As such, it may also be linked to wrongful death cases. CTE has been found in more than 300 former NFL players as well as numerous semi-pro and high school soccer players.

If you or a loved one are displaying any CTE symptoms, seek medical attention immediately, and consult with a brain injury lawyer. The new study on repetitive head impacts and CTE may change the way brain injury liability and damages are assessed in court.

What Are the Symptoms of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy?

While CTE cannot fully be diagnosed until after a person’s death, there may be certain signs and symptoms that might signal that a person could have the disease. These may include:

  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Impaired judgment
  • Impulse control problems
  • Aggression
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Parkinsonism
  • Progressive dementia

Symptoms may also include unexplained behaviors such as sudden personality changes or suicidality. CTE symptoms can often begin years or even decades after the end of active athletic participation.

If you or a loved one are displaying any CTE symptoms, seek medical attention immediately, and consult with a brain injury lawyer. The new study on repetitive head impacts and CTE may change the way brain injury liability and damages are assessed in court.

Damages in a brain injury lawsuit may cover:

  • Medical and hospital bills
  • Costs of ongoing treatment not normally covered by insurance
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of the ability to generate income
  • Loss of companionship of a loved one
  • Wrongful death costs, when applicable

The amount recovered in a lawsuit depends on various factors, including the skill and experience of the attorney representing you.

Contact an Experienced Brain Injury Lawyer

The new evidence regarding repetitive head impacts and CTE will go a long way toward raising awareness. It will also help in implementing protective measures for vulnerable populations.

The human brain is an intensely complex organ, and as such, brain injuries can be extremely serious and life-altering. Any injury to the brain may involve complicated liability issues that can only be resolved through legal action. For these reasons, it is important to select the right brain injury lawyer for your case.

At Smith Law Center, we have changed the way brain injury cases are litigated. Managing partner Stephen Smith is an internationally recognized authority in traumatic brain injury litigation and has nearly 50 years of experience. He has consistently obtained numerous multi-million dollar settlements and verdicts nationwide in catastrophic and traumatic brain injury cases.

If you or a loved one have been affected by CTE or have any concerns about the condition, contact us at (757) 244-7000. We have represented thousands of those impacted by brain injuries, and maintain conscious efforts to stay updated on new studies and data.

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