Participants reached a general consensus that repeated sub-concussive hits to the head can lead to memory and cognitive issues, and may possibly be implicated in subsequent neurodegenerative conditions, such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and potentially Alzheimer's disease (AD). Furthermore, such head hits appear to be more dangerous for children under the age of approximately 12, even when they do not involve concussion, in part because children's brains are bigger relative to their overall size, and their necks are weaker. In addition, with women now participating in greater numbers in contact sports, there are greater concussion rates among women athletes than men.
Other themes discussed at #C4CT included:
•The difficultly in distinguishing CTE from Alzheimer's and other types of cognitive conditions, which have brain hallmarks (tau) that are related but distinct from one another, and are equally hard to distinguish given current diagnostic paradigms. Researchers raised the question if some of the American football players who were previously reported to have died from Alzheimer's in a recent peer-reviewed study could actually have died from CTE, which is only very recently being diagnosed. The study found that ex-football players died from AD at a four-times (4x) higher-than average rate.
•The need for tests to accurately diagnose neurodegenerative conditions beyond clinical assessments. Researchers presented positive interim results from Amarantus' proprietary cell cycle dysregulation diagnostic blood assay LymPro Test®, currently under development for Alzheimer's disease diagnosis, which demonstrated a statistically significant difference between subjects with Alzheimer's disease and those who were healthy.
•The need for a standard definition of concussion. It's hard to diagnose what you can not even define, and even more difficult to treat it. A group of international experts should be convened for the sole purpose of defining the term 'concussion.'
•Keeping track of a "hit count" and limiting overall exposure, especially in the young, may be part of the solution. The question should shift from when a player can return to play, to what is that player's future risk. Return to learn is more important than return to play in the student population.
•Need to improve standard-of- care for concussion with what we know about it now, and standardize it across hospitals, clinical practices and playing fields.
Panelists also called the audience and fellow speakers to action, urging them to contact their senators and congressmen to let them know brain health, Alzheimer's disease and concussion prevention should be a priority.
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The #C4CT Summit can be viewed at: www.webtv.un.org. All can join the conversation on Twitter by using the hashtag #C4CT.
The #C4CT Concussion Awareness Summit is a bi-annual multi-disciplinary conference bringing together clinicians, medical researchers, policy makers, international diplomats, athletes, celebrities, and philanthropic organizations. The purpose is to create a collaborative forum in which this diverse group can explore emerging theories, clinical observations and public policy and hear first-hand accounts from athletes and patients to raise concussion awareness and address this major unmet medical need and public health issue.
The next #C4CT Concussion Awareness Summit will take place in
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