Mild traumatic brain injury in contact sport athletes and the development of neurodegenerative disease
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Every year an estimated 42 million people worldwide suffer a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) or concussion, with approximately 3.6 million sports related concussions occurring yearly in the United States alone (Bailes, 2015, Azad et al., 2015). An MTBI is an acute brain injury resulting from mechanical energy to the head from external forces (Bailes 2015). Symptoms of an MTBI include visual disturbances, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, light sensitivity, loss of balance, and a general feeling of fatigue (Bailes 2015). MTBI’s are first diagnosed through changes in ImPACT baseline scores as well as Vestibular Ocular Motor Screening (Mucha et al., 2014). Repetitive MTBI and/or repetitive sub-concussive head trauma have been tentatively linked to increased risk for a variety of neurodegenerative diseases including chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) (Gardner et al., 2015). The major limitation of the link between MTBI and CTE is that CTE can only be diagnosed post-mortem (Azad et al., 2015). Due to that limitation, the prevalence of CTE is unknown and the amount of MTBI or sub-concussive trauma exposure necessary to produce CTE is unclear (Gardner et al., 2015). Newer methods of research including SNTF immunostaining and L-COSY are being further developed and studied to better diagnose MTBI and its link to CTE by exploring changes in brain protein formation and brain neurochemistry (Johnson et al., 2015, Lin et al., 2015). Through research development and case studies on professional American football players and boxers, a link between MTBI, particularly repetitive MTBI and CTE has been formed (Maroon et al., 2014).