The latest CTE news

I read with dismay the latest news that chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has been identified in a young man who played mostly amateur soccer. Patrick Grange played soccer throughout his childhood and in college and even in semi-pro leagues. He developed amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in his mid-20s and died at age 29. His brain was studied and the pathology reported is a grade 2 case (out of a 4-point scale) of CTE. Here I want to make two points. First, this news further deepens parents’ and young people’s dilemmas regarding sports. The most commonly played organized sport among youth in the world, even in the latecomer U.S., is soccer (or football in the parlance of the world outside of the U.S.). Much was made of Patrick Grange’s penchant for head-butting the ball. However, it is not clear at all that Mr Grange’s CTE was a result of his head-butting proclivities. His parents report that he suffered from at least 3 serious concussions. Regardless of which injuries were in the straw-pile that broke the camel’s back, I think that most parents recognize that soccer can be a dangerous sport. Weighing the positive physical and social benefits of team sports against the potential for future disability is a personal judgment call. The influence of future harm upon the final decision is greatly impacted by discounting as discussed in a previous post. The second point to be made here is the connection between […]

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Why is looking at blue-footed boobies on a rocky boat easier than carrying a cup of tea?

As I carried my cup of tea from the kitchen to the living room this morning, I once again thought about the wonders of the vestibular system, wonders which I feared may have been lost in the length and detail of my previous post. So here goes, a quick and bottom-line account. If I could keep my hand as steady as I can keep my gaze I could run with that cup of tea and not spill a drop. There is only one part of the body that gets the royal treatment. Lots of brain power is devoted to fixing (in the sense of keeping steady) gaze in space. We care very much about our hands and mouth but we can’t keep them steady. The one steady point that we have is gaze. Pretty cool, don’t you think? A steady gaze is such a given in everyday life that we will always notice and be extremely bothered when something goes wrong with our vestibuloocular reflex or VOR (a brainstem reflex that moves our eyes to oppose head movements; see last post). Without an operational VOR, the world does not stay steady, we become nauseated and as you may imagine, unhappy enough to seek medical help. And to return to the topic of blue-footed boobies, here is a picture of a particularly fetching one:

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