The Whitworths of Arizona, bringing science to you in everyday language.

Friday, December 30, 2016

LBD and Football

I boycott football. I don't watch it. I don't feel that I can work with people who deal with dementia and support a sport that causes it.

I tell this to people who start talking about football and they will usually nod. They've heard the statistics. "But it's the player's choice to be out there," they tell me. And, "The game will be played whether I watch or not," they say.

I say, "No, it is our culture's choice to lionize the game, to make it so profitable for the players, the NFL and the media. If we didn't watch, it would not be so attractive to our young men. Our boys would be less likely to want to play it in middle school, or high school."

I seldom convince anyone. They usually nod, and keep talking. But at least, I've made them think about what they are promoting.

They also tell me, "Yes, but, the NFL has changed a lot of rules and the repeated head injury trauma resulting in CTE* isn't as likely now."

But even with the new regulations, there were more concussions in 2015 in than in previous years. Besides that, nearly a third may not have been reported because during training camp and certain other times, injury reports aren't required. (Injuries are less dangerous if it they occur during training?) Also, concussions aren't always recognized until there is another bump that increases the first injury.

So why am I talking about this on my blog? Well, CTE is a man's disease...not because women can't get it but because they usually don't play such violent sports. Men are also at higher risk for LBD*. And so, as children or as young men, football players increase their already higher chances of developing LBD, or of developing it earlier than they otherwise would--in addition to any CTE they also develop. This is supported by a 2013 study that showed that CTE advanced the progression of Lewy bodies. That is, it doesn't cause LBD, but it sure can make it show up sooner and advance more quickly.

Now, we believe that LBD is caused by a combination of genetics and environment. That is, we all start out with a susceptibility to certain diseases.

If you have a family history of LBD, Alzheimers or other dementia in your family, you may have the genes for that tendency. That doesn't mean you will get it. That depends on the other half of the equation: the environment. You will likely never experience it...unless it is triggered by something like toxins in our air or food--or repeated head trauma.

Some of these we can control for. We can be careful of the insecticides we use. We can choose organic food. We can also choose the sports we play, and the sports we encourage our children and young men to play.

We have more power than we think. If we all turned off the TV set on football night--or switched the channel, what would happen? Why don't you try it and find out?

Frontline. (2014) Shocking statistic: 96% of pro football players suffered from brain disease before death. October 1, 2014. RT Question More.

Knowles B. (2016) 15 Shocking Statistics About Concussions in the NFL. The Sportster.

Leung C, et al. (2013) Accelerated Protein Deposition in Individuals affected with both
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy and Lewy Body Dementia. Boston University.

* Acronyms:
LBD: Lewy body dementia
CTE: chronic traumatic encephalopathy

For information about Lewy body disorders, read our books:
A Caregivers’ Guide to Lewy Body Dementia
Managing Cognitive Issues in Parkinson's and Lewy Body Dementia

Helen and James Whitworth are not doctors, lawyers or social workers. As informed caregivers, they share the information here for educational purposes only. It should never be used instead of a professional's advice.

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