Tags: woodpeckers | cte | nfl

Woodpeckers' CTE Solution May Help NFL – Knock on Wood

Image: Woodpeckers' CTE Solution May Help NFL – Knock on Wood

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By    |   Wednesday, 07 February 2018 09:29 AM

Woodpeckers are at the forefront of research into CTE – Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy – that might teach the NFL something about head injuries, namely how can a bird repeatedly whack its head against trees with a force 10 times that of a concussion-inducing football tackle yet seem no worse for the wear.

The degenerative brain disease, which is prominent in contact sports like football, can only be diagnosed post mortem, making it impossible to determine how many athletes walk away from a sport with CTE, the Brain Injury Research Institute reported.

However, researchers have now found that woodpeckers also show signs of CTE but somehow cope.

USA Today reported their study revealed that high-force impact involved in pecking wood led to the build-up of a potentially harmful protein called “tau” inside the bird’s brains.

The same protein was also found inside brains of athletes who played high-impact sports, as well as people with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.

Tau protein’s main function is to help various areas of the brain relay information and communicate, Newsweek reported.

One theory is that impact knocks this protein loose and if this happens enough times, it becomes entangled and can no longer serve its function. Ultimately this could be an indicator of CTE.

Scientists at Boston University took a peek into the brains of woodpeckers to see if there was any merit to the theory.

Their experiment involved the brains of 10 downy woodpeckers, which they compared to the brains of five other bird species that did not engage in any high-impact activities, Science Magazine reported.

They found that eight of the 10 woodpeckers brains featured deposits of tau protein while all five of the other birds’ tests came back negative.

The study’s findings said more work is needed to figure out whether the tau in woodpecker brains is an adaptation for dealing with head trauma, or whether the birds have ways of dissolving excess accumulations of tau.

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Woodpeckers are at the forefront of research into CTE that might teach the NFL something about head injuries, namely how can they whack their heads against trees with a force 10 times that of a concussion-inducing football tackle yet seem no worse for the wear.
woodpeckers, cte, nfl
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2018-29-07
Wednesday, 07 February 2018 09:29 AM
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