News / Calgary

No definitive link between CTE and and concussions – yet

University of Calgary professor says more research needed to prove the link between the disease and concussions

A professor at the University of Calgary said the CFL’s commissioner was right to say there is no link between football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – yet.

Jeffery Orridge received a lot of attention for refusing to admit there is a link between CTE and football during his state of the league address on Nov. 25.

Orridge went against his counterparts in the NFL, who acknowledged their is a link between the disease and football in May this year.

“There isn’t yet convincing, compelling evidence to show if there is a link or not,” said Dr. Keith Yeates, a professor in the department of psychology at the University of Calgary, and chair of the university’s Integrated Concussion Research Program (ICRP). The program researches the effects of concussions on youth.

Yeates is speaking at a public forum on concussions at the U of C on Nov. 29, along with Jon Cornish, who retired from the CFL after suffering from a head injury in 2015, and Paul Carson from Hockey Canada.

The CFL is facing a $200 million class-action lawsuit which represents over 200 former players, who claim former CFL commissioner Mark Cohon withheld information regarding repeated concussions and the link to long-term cognitive disorders. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

“It’s interesting, because (Orridge) said the evidence is not yet conclusive that concussions are linked to CTE, and actually that’s true,” Yeates said. 

The disease can only be detected through an autopsy, and according to Yeates, there have only been a select number of cases that went to autopsy and showed evidence of CTE.

“We have already had cases were CTE was expected, but not found in the autopsy,” he added.

Yeates acknowledged CTE is associated with repeated head injuries over a longer period of time.

“The strongest proponents about CTE and the possible link to contact sports focus on repetitive head impact, rather than concussions themselves.”

“What’s clear is there are a lot of professional athletes without CTE – we have no idea what proportion of athletes would show it after an autopsy. We don’t know why some people are at risk and some aren’t,” Yeates said.

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