Expert: Junior Seau CTE was not caused by football concussions

January 11, 2013  


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A football concussion researcher says the CTE damage discovered in the brain of deceased NFL All-Pro linebacker Junior Seau was likely not caused by concussions, but rather by an accumulation of thousands of subconcussive blows to the head.

The Purdue University Neurotrauma Group has been examining the brains of scores of high school football players over the past four seasons and discovered that the hundreds of hits these players take to the head each season has an immediate and lingering detrimental effect on how their brains function.

Biomedical engineering professor Tom Talavage says fMRI exams reveal that even in athletes never diagnosed with concussions, activity in portions of the brain most prone to impacts begins to shut down and basic cognitive tasks become more difficult to perform even in the course of one high school season.

"Seau played a savage brand of football for a quarter century without a single diagnosis of concussion as a professional. Just increasing efforts to improve concussion diagnosis is a waste of time and taxpayer money," Talavage said. "We need to figure out how to reduce the number of hits to these kids' heads."

Purdue research using helmet sensors and sideline computers revealed that high school players receive up to 1,800 hits to the head per season, some ranging as high in force as 250 Gs. Purdue engineers have developed new helmet liner technology that reduces the impact to the brain by 50 percent. Talavage also suggests fewer contact drills during practices and a baseball-style "hit count" that, when exceeded, automatically sidelines a player.

"Current helmet technology, which has hardly improved over the past 40 years, was designed to prevent skull fractures," Talavage said. "It does a good job at that, but the helmets were never designed to significantly protect the brain itself."

Purdue Neurotrauma Group research on football concussions has been featured in Sports Illustrated, ESPN, HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, PBS Frontline, NBC Nightly News and CNN.

Writer: Jim Schenke,  765-237-7296, jschenke@purdue.edu

Source: Tom Talavage, tmt@purdue.edu

Note to Journalists: Experts are available in person, and via satellite, Vyvx, Skype, and telephone. Broadcast-quality B-roll and sound bites are available. For more information, contact Jim Schenke, Purdue News Service, at 765-237-7296, jschenke@purdue.edu.

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