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Toronto (May 11, 2015) – The results of three brain autopsies announced this week by the Krembil Neuroscience Centre's Canadian Sports Concussion Project (CSCP) show the varying outcomes that can result in brains of former athletes who sustained multiple concussions.
The analyses of the brains of former NHL player Steve Montador and two former CFL players including John Forzani, showed a range of results varying from severe effects of multiple concussions to no definite evidence of trauma to the brain. The severe effects include brain degeneration and presence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – a neurodegenerative brain disorder linked to multiple concussions.
The brains of both Montador and the anonymous donor showed CTE while Forzani's brain showed no evidence of trauma; despite all three athletes having suffered multiple concussions throughout their respective careers.
"These results indicate that in some athletes multiple concussions lead to the development of CTE, but also that certain individuals may be more vulnerable than others to developing CTE as a result of concussions," said Dr. Lili-Naz Hazrati neuropathologist in the Laboratory Medicine Program at the University Health Network who conducted the autopsies. "Adding these findings to the other results we've had to date reflects the spectrum of our findings by showing that concussions can affect the brain in different ways."
The profile and results of each donation, made on behalf of the Montador and Forzani families, and an anonymous donor over the last year, are as follows:
Steve Montador was a 35 year old retired professional hockey player who played for several teams in the NHL and sustained multiple concussions during his career. Montador's autopsy results showed the widespread presence of CTE throughout his brain. Prior to his death, Montador suffered from depression, erratic behaviour and problems with his memory.
John Forzani, age 67, was a Canadian businessman and a former player with the Calgary Stampeders in the CFL. Despite having suffered multiple concussions during his athletic career, the autopsy results showed that Forzani's brain showed no signs of CTE.
The third donor, age 76, was a former professional football player who was an offensive and defensive tackle with several teams in the CFL and for a short period in the NFL. The individual sustained several concussions over a 14 year professional football career, some of which caused unconsciousness. Sometime after retirement, he developed dementia for which he was treated for many years before his passing. The autopsy results confirmed the presence of CTE in his brain.
"We are very grateful to the families who made these valuable brain donations," said Dr. Charles Tator, neurosurgeon and project lead of the CSCP. "This research is ultimately aimed at not only finding treatments for this condition, but also serves to underline the importance of efforts to prevent concussion – which we wouldn't be able to do without these contributions."
"Collectively, these findings are an important step to further our understanding of what happens to the brain as a result of multiple concussions," added Hazrati, who is also a member of the CSCP research team. "But we certainly need to continue studying this brain injury to determine who is likely to develop CTE, why and how we can help those who suffer from it in a meaningful way."
The results support the need for more concussion research to determine the prevalence of CTE in the brains of former athletes. These recent findings bring the total of brains analyzed to 16 with roughly half showing signs of CTE or the presence of another neurodegenerative disease.
The CSCP aims to recruit a total of 50 brain donations to its ongoing research project and welcomes the commitment of donation from current or former professional athletes. All donor information is kept private, except when the player or family consents to release their name, such as in two of these cases. For more information about brain donation, please visit www.solveconcussions.ca.
The CSCP, founded by Dr. Charles Tator, is one of few research projects in the world to examine the entire spectrum of concussion disorders from acute injury to chronic illness including brain degeneration. The team harnesses the expertise of several scientists and clinicians in brain injuries, imaging, genetics, neuropsychology and clinical care at the Krembil Neuroscience Centre and other brain research facilities to further our understanding of this common brain injury.
The Krembil Neuroscience Centre (KNC), located at Toronto Western Hospital, is home to one of the largest combined clinical and research neurological facilities in North America. Since opening in 2001, KNC has been recognized as a world leader through its research achievements, education and exemplary patient care. The centre focuses on the advancement, detection and treatment of neurological diseases and specializes in movement disorders, dementias, stroke, spinal cord injury, blinding eye diseases, epilepsy and cancer-related conditions. For more information please visit www.krembil.com.
University Health Network consists of Toronto General and Toronto Western Hospitals, the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, and Toronto Rehabilitation Institute. The scope of research and complexity of cases at University Health Network has made it a national and international source for discovery, education and patient care. It has the largest hospital-based research program in Canada, with major research in cardiology, transplantation, neurosciences, oncology, surgical innovation, infectious diseases, genomic medicine and rehabilitation medicine. University Health Network is a research hospital affiliated with the University of Toronto.
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