LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Everyone worries about their kids playing sports, including University of Kentucky Assistant Professor at the Center on Aging and the Department of Neuroscience Josh Morganti.
He says, "So we've got kids going all across the boards on sports."
Including an 8-year-old daughter that plays soccer. Morganti studies diseases like CTE — a degenerative brain disease that impacts athletes that participate in contact sports, including soccer, hockey, boxing, and football.
Morganti says, "If she does happen to hit her head, or she hits it, we want to know about it — if it was happening during a game or during practice or something that we know when it happens so we can kinda see if there's any behavioral changes or anything like that. And I think that's a really critical thing for parents to know."
Today, the University of Kentucky hosted a symposium with keynote speaker Ann McKee, M.D., who leads studies on CTE. This disease can be caused by repeated hits to the head — which can have long-lasting and even deadly impacts.
She explains, "It can lead to very severe mood and behavioral and cognitive changes."
CTE researchers say that the goal is to be able to diagnose and even treat people with CTE while they're still alive.
McKee says, "Right now we can’t make the diagnosis until a person has died. But we are looking at blood biomarkers, spinal fluid biomarkers, and imaging studies to try to make a diagnosis in a living person."
McKee suggests that communities need to reduce the number of head impacts that athletes playing contact sports experience.
She says, "Maybe even limit the number of games, start the contact sport at a later age, because the longer a person plays, the higher their risk is. And also just changing the basic rules of the game."
As national leagues make changes to the game, Morganti urges fans to remember that athletes deserve a healthy quality of life.
"We love sports, we want sports to happen, sports are an incredibly healthy way for kids to develop. But we can also do that in the context of being able to have kids, and our young adults, and athletes do things that are gonna prevent them from acquiring this degenerative condition later in life, that are gonna prevent them from living that healthy and happy full life,” says Morganti.