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Concussions in Pro Football Players Provide Clues to Military TBI Treatment Cont.
Brain Injuries and the Battlefield
Perl pointed to the recent case of NFL player David Duerson a former NFL player who committed suicide in February of this year at age 50, as an example of how there is a latency period before the symptoms begin to manifest.
Duerson had played in the NFL for 11 seasons and sustained concussions during his career. In the immediate years following his NFL career, he had successfully run a food-distribution business. In the several years prior to dying, he had complained of problems with memory, headaches, vision, spelling, attention and impulse control that grew worse, according to the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, where his brain was diagnosed by Ann McKee, MD. He eventually lost his business through bankruptcy and was in debt when he died.
In a statement McKee released on that diagnosis, she said Duerson was suffering from moderately advanced CTE; stage 3 of 4. “The pathology was severe in areas of the brain that influence impulse control, inhibition, emotion and memory,” she said.
Perl said that he has seen a number of these types of cases in collaboration with McKee.
He said the symptoms found in football players who were found to have CTE “are similar to the symptoms seen in military personnel with TBI.”
“Is CTE affecting the brains of our military personnel after IED exposure? That is the question,” he said.
In addition, Perl said another question that remains to be determined is whether a form of CTE is “partially responsible for the current high rate of PTSD, substance abuse and suicide in the military.”
Perl said the Military Brain Injury Studies Program is funded to study these and will document the neuropathology of TBI in the military — both the long-term and acute effects. He said researchers hope eventually to develop a drug-screening program to identify drugs that can either prevent or reduce tau accumulation in the brain.
Stanley Prusiner, MD, director of the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases and the 1997 Nobel Laureate for Physiology or Medicine, also emphasized the importance of tau research in his presentation at the conference. He and Perl are collaborating on research on the effects of tau.
“There is not a single drug, not only not a single drug that does anything for these neurogenerative diseases caused by tau, but there is not a single drug that slows or halts any neurodegenerative disease. This is really awful,” he said.
Moreover, he pointed out there is no way to diagnose tau buildup in living people.
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