“Minimal Evidence” Alcohol (As Opposed To Repeated Brain Trauma) Responsible For Athlete Cognitive Problems

It is well documented that many athletes in contact and combat sports suffer long term cognitive problems. CTE is real. Its link to repeated head hits is now so well established that both the CDC and NIH admit that it is ’caused’ be repeated concussive and sub concussive blows.

Despite knowledge of CTE (or ‘punch drunk’ as it was initially labelled) and its relationship to repeated head trauma being almost a century old some skeptics still exist. One of the common talking points of some CTE skeptics is that alcohol abuse, not serial brain trauma, is responsible for the cognitive decline in athletes. A study was published in the New Zealand Journal of Sports medicine showing just how thin this theory is.

The study, titled Is there a link between alcohol use and long-term cognitive or neuropathological outcomes in athletes
with a history of mild traumatic brain injury? A systematic review
, involved an in depth review of the publsibhed literatuyre addressing such a potential link. After drilling through the existing research they found only 5 articles of any subtance address the topic. And those found very little connection.

The full abstract reads as follows:

ABSTRACT
Background
Alcohol has been proposed as a risk factor for brain health in sport and is a known risk factor for dementia in the general population.
However, any link between alcohol and long-term health effects observed in athletes who have experienced multiple mild traumatic
brain injuries (mTBI) remains unclear.

Objective
This systemic review explored links between alcohol use and clinical presentation of cognitive and neuropathological outcomes in
athletes with a history of mTBI.

Methods
Systemic searches of library databases from 1970s’ using search terms related to contact sports, athletes, traumatic brain injury/
concussion, neurodegenerative diseases, and alcohol. Studies needed to present results on: 1) Sportspeople engaged in at least one
competitive season of sport; 2) Alcohol use or alcoholism; 3) Participants with a history of mTBI or repeated head impact sustained
from sports participation; 4) At least one cognitive or neuropathological outcome; 5) Published in English in a peer-reviewed journal.
Data were extracted into a standardised spreadsheet. Included studies were appraised using the British Medical Journal Appraisal
Tool for Cross-Sectional Studies.


Results

Only five articles presented results directly linking alcohol use with a cognitive or neuropathological outcome despite 101
articles discussing possible links. Quality of evidence in the five studies was moderate. One study reported an association between
alcohol use and immediate memory (cognitive functioning). Brain scanning results showed an association between alcohol use and
glutamate in athletes, however, more associaGons with white and grey maYer were observed in controls. Only one study revealed
higher rates of antemortem alcohol use in chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) cases.

Conclusions

There was minimal evidence showing the relative contribution of alcohol on cognitive and neuropathological outcomes
specifically in athletes with a history of mTBI.

Key Points
· Only five articles presented results directly linking alcohol use and cognitive and neuropathological outcomes in athletes with a
history of mTBI.
· There was little evidence to suggest a link between alcohol and longer-term cognitive functioning in athletes with a history of mTBI.
· There was minimal evidence from studies exploring links between alcohol use and neuropathological outcomes including
magnetic resonance imaging, magnetic resonance spectroscopy and CTE diagnosis. Based on one study there was slight evidence
of alcohol use as a modifier for tauopathy or increased likelihood of CTE for athlete cases.
· No studies were identified examining a link between alcohol and demenGa in athletes with a history of mTBI.
· There was minimal evidence on the relative contribution of alcohol on long-term brain health in athletes with a history of mTB

Advertisement

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s