Australian researchers confirm world’s first case of dementia linked to repetitive brain trauma in a female athlete

Researchers at the Australian Sports Brain Bank have today reported the world’s first diagnosis of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in a female athlete.

With the consent of her family, the diagnosis was made on the brain of Heather Anderson, a 28-year-old AFLW athlete who died last November. Heather’s family donated her brain to the Australian Sports Brain Bank hoping to better understand why she died.

The findings, which Professor Alan Pearce co-authored with the Australian Sports Brain Bank, raise questions about how a lifetime of contact sport may have contributed to her death. They come as Australia’s Senate inquiry works on its report into concussions and repeated head trauma in contact sport, due in August.

Given how hard women have fought to participate in football codes and contact sports in recent years, this diagnosis has major implications for women’s sport in Australia. It also highlights the significant lack of research about women athletes in sport science and medicine.

There is emerging evidence that women are at significantly higher risk of mild traumatic brain injury (concussion) and may suffer more severe symptoms.

Concussion alone does not cause CTE, but an athlete’s number of concussions is a reliable indicator of their cumulative exposure to brain trauma, which is the biggest predictor of CTE.

The health of women athletes and women’s sport will only progress if researchers, policymakers and sport governance bodies ensure the attention and resources required to address concussion and brain disease are not focused solely on men.

Source: Australian researchers confirm world’s first case of dementia linked to repetitive brain trauma in a female athlete

3 thoughts on “Australian researchers confirm world’s first case of dementia linked to repetitive brain trauma in a female athlete”

  1. We ignore sexual dimorphism at our peril.

    Men have stronger bones, stronger muscles to absorb shock etc.

    For the same reason men should not be allowed to play against women in contact or other sports, women who take on male contact sports are putting themselves at risk. (in my opinion…)

    Males have been diagnosed with CTE for years. (see ‘Concussion’ with Will Smith). AFL and Rugby Aus are seeing more and more men with CTE all the time.

    Contact sports are not safe for anyone and less safe for women than for men.

  2. Will this health and safety issue be taken into account when decisions are made about how women’s sport should be populated? Has it been taken into account? Is this a new area for sports law and lawyers and tortious actions against the sports entities making these decisions? Is there room for the criminal as well as civil law?

  3. To add to the above, there is probably an argument that can be made for males to play contact sports as this gives a venue for a legitimate out let for testosterone fuelled aggression without the wider social damage that would otherwise be the case.

    Many cultures have such outlets for aggression for males.

    Most women do not have the same aggressive urges as a normal part of life.

    I’d be interested to see workplace injury stats for women working in traditional male jobs such as construction which involve physical lifting etc. Nursing has always had back injuries associated with it but this does not detract from the argument I think. Happy to be corrected of course…

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