University of Pittsburgh Launches the National Sports Brain Bank

Further research is needed to better understand the long-term effects of head trauma. A new program has been launched in Pittsburgh to conduct further research on this matter. The University of Pittsburgh’s National Sports Brain Bank has opened, contributing to the ongoing study of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). While the discovery of CTE was significant, there is still much to learn about this condition. Thus far, most research has come from the Boston University CTE Center; however, the National Sports Brain Bank adds additional data. Former Steeler players Jerome Bettis and Merrill Hoge have already pledged to join the effort for post-mortem study of their brains. The National Sports Brain Bank aims to recruit athletes and non-athletes alike to develop a more comprehensive understanding of brain health.

The National Sports Brain Bank will have ties to the NFL, with seed funding coming from the Chuck Noll Brain Research Foundation, an organization founded by donations from the Steelers. However, there may be tension between the National Sports Brain Bank and the more independent CTE Center. The National Sports Brain Bank questions studies conducted by the CTE Center and suggests that biases may exist. For example, brains donated to CTE centers are usually from athletes who showed the condition while alive. The National Sports Brain Bank plans to “reduce, eliminate, and eliminate such bias.” Dr. Anne McKee, who runs the CTE Center, argues that her group’s research takes into account all potential biases and welcomes additional groups to join the effort.

Football players are aware that the game carries risks of head injury. The extent of those risks is still unknown, causing fear and anxiety, particularly among retired players. Learning more about CTE will benefit future, current, and former players, helping to understand the link between head trauma and potential long-term health problems.

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