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The athletes in the comparison group will include retired swimmers and tennis players among others, recruited through college alumni associations and sports leagues.
"You'd be surprised at how many sports we exclude because we don't know for sure there's not a problem," Stern said, such as distance running, with the jolting of the head at every step.
Two more subjects are lined up for December, then the pace will pick up in January. The athletes are promised confidentiality.
The researchers hope genetic testing and other analyses help them eventually determine why some athletes who receive repeated blows to the head develop CTE and others don't. Dr. Robert Cantu and Chris Nowinski, a former Harvard football player and professional wrestler, are the other co-directors of the center.
Stern, a professor of neurology and neurosurgery at BU's medical school, also studies Alzheimer's. The recent progress made in diagnosing that disease during life encouraged him that the same could happen with CTE.
The grant, received in August, is also supported by the National Institute of Neurologic Diseases and Stroke, the National Institute on Aging, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. There are 20 co-investigators, including researchers at Harvard, Penn and Columbia. The center is still seeking additional funding to complete the study.
The center is also conducting a study called LEGEND of more than 100 athletes from a variety of sports using yearly telephone interviews, online questionnaires and a saliva sample for genetic testing to try to learn more about the development of CTE.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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