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New tech aims to reduce brain injuries in athletes

Athletes in contact-heavy sports run an inherent risk of traumatic brain injuries, usually as the result of cumulative concussions. Multiple concussions have been linked to a degenerative brain disorder called chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Like other traumatic brain injuries, CTE has been linked to depression, memory loss, dementia, personality changes, confusion and other associated problems—leaving the brains of some athletes in their 40's looking like they belong to victims of Alzheimer's in their 90's.

In recent years, there's been a lot of negative attention on the number of high-profile athletes who are suffering from CTE and other brain disorders. Class-action lawsuits by former National Football League players and former World Wrestling Entertainment performers have focused in on the fact that many athletes "played through the pain," instead of being pulled out of action or given adequate information about the long-term risks they were running of permanent brain injuries.

The attention has given rise to new research into brain injuries on a variety of fronts.

New forms of wearable technology have been put into use—some of which aim to protect athletes from the dangers of multiple concussions and some of which are designed to give researchers more information about exactly which impacts cause those concussions.

Other tech is focused on diagnosing the early symptoms of CTE. Right now, CTE can only be confirmed after death through a brain autopsy. New studies with injectable tracers indicate the start of the disease can be picked up on a scanner. Similarly, genetic screening has identified a gene called ApoE4 that could make bearers more susceptible to harm from repeated blows to the head.

The over-all goal of all the technology that's being developed is simple: reduce the number of athletes who end up with CTE or other brain injuries in the first place and get those who have suffered injuries out of the game while they are still symptom-free so that they don't risk further damage.

Anyone that has suffered a series of concussions during their athletic career and suspects that they may be suffering from a brain injury should consider contacting an attorney to discuss the possibility of a case.

Source: WIRED, "Wearable tech could knock out concussions from contact sports," Jan. 04, 2017

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