I used to play craps, which I considered, (hmm I still do) to be the most exciting game in the casino. I heard that baccarat has the best odds for the gambler and so I played that too. But when it comes to pure excitement in the casino, it’s hard to match the thrill of tossing the dice and getting on a “roll”. Baccarat places a distant second. Damn the odds.
When I toss the dice time and again, avoiding crapping out (rolling a “7” when I don’t want to) it’s possible to develop a momentary feeling on invincibility. I’m not kidding. Around the little stadium with the dice in hand I am the center of attention, and for the most part, the engaged spectators root, cheer, and even pray for me to succeed. If I throw those dice the same way, make them land the same place each time, I can suck in the cheers and in so doing, get paid pretty well. And while that goes on, I feel really good. I wonder if the professional athlete feels like this when they are in the zone.
Step right up and place your bets folks. I can’t lose.
Until I do.
On a good day, tau protein is found in our brains, doing its job to support microtubules, which in turn support the cytoskeleton. The cytoskeleton is basically the skeleton of a cell. And just like the skeleton we all know, you might imagine that the cytoskeleton is pretty important. It is. And the tau protein is really important because it stabilizes the microtubules that help form that skeleton.
Now meet the Tau Tangle. If something goes wrong in this arena (let’s call it crapping out) the tau protein stops doing its job. When that happens, it can lead to the Tau Tangle and you can probably guess that when normal tau functioning breaks down, the ability to keep the cell structure and functioning together is severely challenged. Bad things can happen.
One of those bad things could be CTE. Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) “is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes (and others) with a history of repetitive brain trauma, including symptomatic concussions as well as asymptomatic subconcussive hits to the head”, according to the BU Center for the study of Traumatic Encephalopathy. The BU Center has been one of the few torches in a dark arena raising questions about the long-term impact of repeated hits to the head. This week, that torch was doused with gasoline during a Frontline documentary, League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis (http://video.pbs.org/video/2365093675/).
The BU Center studies brains that have been donated to them and through multiple publications and interviews, has demonstrated an apparent link between head trauma and the potential development of CTE. In 2012, their work showed that 80% of the brains they studied (85 people in the referenced study – 50 of them were football players), showed signs of CTE. http://www.bu.edu/cste/
Hold on now cowboy – What’s that you say about football?
The juggernaut that is the NFL, until recently, was not terribly supportive of the research that BU, or anyone else was doing around a potential link between CTE and repetitive hits. After all, many of the CTE victims have been professional football players. In well-documented tactics, the League downplayed, denied, and rebuked the research that was being done. More recently, they have begun to support additional work and research on the issue, and expected battle lines have been drawn.
The naysayers have approached the issue demanding more research that can effectively show causation. “At the 4th International Conference on Concussion in Sport, which had recently taken place in Zurich, world experts gathered to discuss the state of head-trauma science. At the end of the conference, a consensus statement was released that said the following: “A cause and effect relationship has not as yet been demonstrated between CTE and concussions or exposure to contact sports. http://regressing.deadspin.com/the-hidden-victims-of-the-nfls-concussion-crisis-1443101890
Phew. So you’re telling me football is OK, right?
In the unknown, by definition you can’t be sure. Fortunately we have come so far in the study of science and medicine, we amass knowledge and understanding about direct effects and causation. Unfortunately, even in the most obvious anecdotal arena that I have seen, that of the impacts of tobacco, it can take quite a long time to formerly establish the connection. I guess it takes time for science to verify the blatantly intuitive.
So until then, strap on those pads, put on those new protective helmets, and place your bets.
I’d rather play craps than take the football bet.