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01-24-2013, 01:35 PM
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In hockey, I'm skeptical the brain damage is done mainly by fighting. The force of being checked and your head and neck whiplashed is much, much more than the force from a punch thrown from a guy on skates.

Two guys colliding at full speed does much more damage than a punch.

There's consensus getting punched in the head does some damage. But how much is an open question.

There's some data indicating soccer players suffer mild brain damage from all the headers.

What about the simple act of running? Does that mild shaking and jostling of the head from running do a tiny amount of damage with each jostle? There's so much we don't know.

Most humans lose cognitive functioning with age. This happens to nearly all of us if we live long enough. Any activity that involves rattling your brain seems to accelerate this process. By how much we don't know.

A friend's father got early onset dementia. He was 49. He wasn't an athlete, just a regular guy. What caused that?

If you were going to get dementia at age 70, but played pro sports and got it at age 65 instead -- is that a fair trade-off?

One theory is that the brain trauma destroys neural connections. But like a spider web, the web still functions despite losing some strands.

But the natural aging process destroys neural connections in all of us. For people who've had brain trauma when younger, they don't have the same reserve capacity as a regular person. So when the normal neural loss from aging starts -- and it starts in your 40s I'm sorry to say -- they hit the wall earlier. They hit the point where the brain can't recruit reserve capacity or route around damaged areas earlier than the rest of us and start displaying overt cognitive deficits.

It's a tough problem. Mainly we need a better understanding of the brain and what happens when it suffers mild and moderate trauma. It's increasingly clear that cumulative sub-concussive events can cause serious damage. But what is the limit of sub-concussive? How small of a force can cause damage? We don't know.

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