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Head Injuries and the NFL, Part 13: End of Regulation Play

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… for future research.

Perhaps the epicenter for the work examining CTE and the brains of NFL players is Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy. The center is headed by Ann McKee, professor of neurology and pathology. Dr. McKee is also involved the NFL’s “Brain Bank,” located at Bedford VA Medical Center in Massachusetts and funded by the NFL. Dr. McKee is probably not only the world’s authority on the relationship between brain damage and an …


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Head Injuries and the NFL, Part 12: Grump Factor

… on a sad note. While writing these last two installments in our series concerning CTE and the NFL, I found out about legendary linebacker Junior Seau’s suicide.

As you probably heard, Seau died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the heart. Some speculate that he chose this method (most people who use firearms aim at the head) for the same reason Dave Duerson killed himself: He wanted us to discern his last request — “Please leave my brain intact for science.”

I would like …


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Head Injuries and the NFL, Part 11: Microglial Cells

We are trying to understand the biology of CTE at the most intimate level possible, the level of cells and molecules. The last entry dealt with the tau protein and its role in mediating closed-head neural damage. In this installment, let’s consider the role of microglial cells , a little wisp of a cell type with a great big job.

Microglia are small, non-neural cells that win my award for …


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Head Injuries and the NFL, Part 10: The Tau of CTE, Continued

… the cytoskeletal structure.

For reasons that are not well known, a particularly vulnerable salt-influx target in that cytoskeleton is tau. Why is that a big deal? One of the jobs of tau is to act like a “glue,” helping to hold the nerve’s cytoskeleton together, stabilizing the structure of the cell. When the “foreign salt” floods the neurons, tau is modified in such fashion that it loses its ability to help hold the scaffolding together. That is truly bad news. Eventually the cell …