Think about it for a second, have you ever heard of CTE in females... Isn’t it a football thing?
After extensive review, I have found 15 cases of possible female CTE in scientific papers. Thanks to Dr. Bennet Omalu and Ann McKee, I was able to locate two cases of CTE and I named these women, "Lucy" and "Wilma." And thanks to help from the NFL Objectors, I found 13 more possible cases from a study at the Queens Square Brain Bank in London which I have named (Update: These 13 were called into question in an exchange with Dr. William Stewart and I will report more on his remarks.)
Who were these women?
In the case of the Queens Square 13, I requested a further review of their backgrounds and the author of the paper, Dr. Helen Ling, was able to share with me they had the following risk factors (some women had more than one risk factors): excessive alcohol (in the case of 2 women), suicide attempt (1), risk sports (2 – gymnastic, cycling, horse riding), falls and related traumatic brain injury in old age (11), fractures resulted from falls (8), motor accident (2), and domestic abuse (1). The Queens Square 13 women's histories give us a good perspective on the possible areas to expand future research.
Shouldn’t we just focus on the men who have CTE right now?
I do not believe any shift of attention to females will detract from the plight of the NFL players and their quest for justice. Instead, I think a focus on CTE In females will give a new control group to compare to the men. Specifically, CTE in a group who did not live the rock star highs and lows of NFL players.
Why look where there doesn’t seem to be an issue?
After questioning Dr. Bennet Omalu, Dr. Ann McKee, Dr. Julian Bailes, Dr. Ling and Dr. Michael Hof (author of the paper on Lucy), they all replied that they have only examined a handful of female brains for CTE, and how there was a lack of female brains in CTE studies. As part of our Feb summit, we are planning a national campaign to encourage more females to donate their brains (which as a completely separate process than organ donation).
Queens Square 13 were found in a sample of 268 screened cases, which is the only large scale study l could find that looked for CTE in both genders. Dr. Ling, author of the paper, told me they were not selected according to gender. But rather, they were the most recent consecutive cases that reached the Queen Square Brain Bank. Therefore, the actual distribution of CTE in females versus the distribution of CTE in males is unknown. However, Dr. Ling estimates that of the 268 cases, at least 100 cases were female. This makes the distribution of females who have CTE, according to Dr. Ling, to be approximately 13 out of 100. See my next post for my interview with Dr. Helen Ling.
How could a female even get brain damage if she doesn’t play football?
She may not play football (although some females do play). But she is more likely to be the shaken baby who ceases to cry out to the toddler who falls off the playground slide. She is the teen athlete who slams her head defending her goal to the college student who bangs her head while drinking at a party. She is the woman concussed from her “lover’s" fist to from whiplash as her car is hit from behind at the red light. She is the soldier injured in the line of duty to the grandmother who slips unsteady on her wet bathroom floor.
She is our daughter, our mother, our sister and our friend. It is now time to address head injury in the females of all ages in our country. The National Summit of Female Concussion and other TBIs on February 27-28, 2016, will be the start.
For more on Female CTE, other blog posts on the PINKconcussions index