Brain disease fears spark calls for full-contact training limits
FOOTY’S SAD TOLL ON MAGPIES GREAT
THE founding executive director of the Australian Sports Brain Bank fears today’s AFL players could be at a greater risk of developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) than footballers of the past, due to a higher frequency of full-contact training and game time.
In the wake of news on Saturday that Collingwood great Murray Weideman had become the fourth VFL-AFL player to be posthumously diagnosed with CTE, Associate Professor Michael Buckland has urged the codes to start limiting full-contact exposure, particularly at training.
He said the organisations of contact sporting codes should have separate policies for CTE – a crippling neurological disease linked to repeated head knocks – to their concussion policies.
“People think that because we are taking better care of head knocks (now) that the situation is getting better,” said Associate Professor Buckland, who is a senior neuropathologist and the head of the department of neuropathology at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney.
“I am concerned that the players of today may be more likely to get CTE, or more severe CTE at a younger age, than the players of yesteryear as they are bigger, stronger and faster and they practise and play more frequently.
“We need to urgently answer this question, because we still have a chance to prevent CTE in active players.”
CTE can only be diagnosed in a post-mortem, which means treatment is not available for those who are unknowingly suffering from the disease in their lifetime.
The symptoms include memory loss, confusion, depression, anxiety, personality/mood changes, and often begin years after the last brain trauma. Associate Professor Buckland said even a small reduction in contact training during the week could potentially reduce a footballer’s chances of developing CTE.
“I think any contact sporting code now should have a specific CTE policy, not just a concussion policy, and the cornerstone of that policy should be in delaying full contact until a later stage and to reduce the cumulative exposure by reducing full contact training,” he said.
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