IOM’s Damien McElvenny is one of 60 leading experts calling for caution on reporting long-term effects of head injuries in sports.

13.02.2019

Today in The Lancet Neurology, experts in research and clinical practice in brain injury from around the world have asked for balanced news reporting when discussing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Damien McElvenny, Principal Epidemiologist with IOM has added his signature alongside a group 60 leading international neuroscientists calling for caution when reporting on the potential late effects of head injuries in sport.

A type of dementia associated with exposure to repeated concussions, CTE has been linked with a variety of contact sports such as boxing, football, American football and rugby.  

However, the letter’s authors are concerned about the tone of reporting around this issue – specifically the lack of acknowledgement that CTE is at an early stage of scientific and medical understanding, with many important aspects of the disease yet to be established. 

Crucially, although CTE is commonly discussed in scientific papers and the media, there is often a failure to note that there is only preliminary agreement on how to recognise this disease and no agreement on how to assess its severity.  There is also no clear understanding of the link between CTE pathology and any specific symptoms.

The corresponding author, Dr Willie Stewart, Consultant Neuropathologist and Honorary Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Glasgow, said: “In recent years there has been a worrying trend to imply that the causes, diagnosis and prevalence of CTE are fully understood, or at least that data to date leave little doubt.” 

IOM’s leading Epidemiology expert, Prof Damien McElvenny, said:Not every sportsperson who suffers from dementia will necessarily have had CTEThus is too early to search for CTE and conclude that head injury in sport must have caused a person’s dementia.”

Read the letter here.

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