IFWT_Dave Mirra

There’s been a lot of talk and ongoing studies about CTE and what causes the damage.  So far the NFL has taken the brunt of the criticism but there’s been speculation about the effects of boxing, MMA and action sports.  Now we have the first known case of that same chronic brain damage in action sports.  BMX icon Dave Mirra, who died in February, suffered from CTE, a University of Toronto neuropathologist has concluded. Multiple neuropathologists confirmed the diagnosis.

Mirra is the first action sports athlete to be diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disease that can lead to dementia, memory loss and depression. He died on Feb. 4 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The tau protein deposits found in Mirra’s brain were indistinguishable from the kind that have been found in the brains of former football and hockey players with CTE, Dr. Lili-Naz Hazrati, the Toronto neuropathologist, told ESPN The Magazine.

“I couldn’t tell the difference,” she said. “The trauma itself defines the disease, not how you got the trauma.”

The trademark tau protein deposits were found in the frontal and temporal lobes of Mirra’s brain.

“It’s assumed it is related to multiple concussions that happened years before,” she said.

Mirra suffered from a fractured skull when a car hit him at age 19, he suffered numerous concussions during his BMX career, and dabbled in boxing after his retirement.

Mirra was the face of BMX, he won 24 medals (a record), he also had a successful video game series and MTV show.  His family requested to have his brain studied after vast changes in his mood and cognition and then his suicide.  Hazrati sent images of her prepared slides, without background information or Mirra’s name attached, to additional U.S. and Canadian neuropathologists for their opinions. Each confirmed Hazrati’s diagnosis of CTE.

It can only be diagnosed after death.  Researchers are working on tests to diagnose it in the living.  That would be a major step in getting athletes help while there’s still time.

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