Collisions in Motion: The Fatal Flaw

Each year, an estimated one-point-seven-million people sustain traumatic brain injuries. While professional football has beefed up patrol over head injuries, they may need to work harder. A former pro athlete and a team of experts say repetitive head trauma may be linked to a disease that is similar to Lou Gehrig’s disease, and worse. You saw Chris Harvard’s work as a pro wrestler, and you saw the work he did on the college gridiron. But he never saw the head shot that ended his career. His real name is Chris Nowinski and he's suffered six concussions in all. He teamed up with the Boston University School of Medicine to ID head trauma's deepest impact. Lab work on the brains of deceased athletes reveals new info on chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. Doctors say it's caused by repetitive trauma like concussions, and symptoms include memory loss and impulse control issues. But here's the big news… “CTE is another cause of dementia; it's another brain disease like Alzheimer’s.” Post-mortem brain scans of former linebacker John Grimsley, he suffered nine concussions. They show buildup of a harmful protein called tau. That protein triggers brain cell death – and dementia. Big news to the 50-thousand child athletes diagnosed with concussions each year. This work may help doctors unravel the mystery of Lou Gehrig’s disease, too. The good news is, not all head traumas mean CTE. Right now, the only way to detect CTE is to dissect the brain – after death. Still, researchers are hoping to find a way to diagnose the disease during life.