After the recent alleged suicide of BMX star Dave Mirra, many began immediately theorizing as to why such a thing could happen. Once the usual suspects had been exhausted, family, friends, and fans began to wonder if maybe all of those head injuries from his BMX career did a little more damage than previously believed.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, better known as CTE, occurs when someone sustains multiple head injuries over a long period of time. These repeated blows to the head can eventually cause symptoms such as depression, progressive dementia, and problems with impulse control. Obviously, that’s a recipe for tragedy.
Athletes and physicians all over the world are gradually becoming more aware of the potential long-term damage that full contact sports, like football and hockey can cause. Scientists are adamant that a change is needed in the sports industry, otherwise hundreds of men and women could suffer from CTE.
Are Cyclists at Risk for Brain Injury?
Steve Broglio, director of the University of Michigan’s NeuroTrauma Researcher Lab and a masters category bike racer, says that cyclists are most likely not at risk of developing long-term brain injury like CTE.
Developing CTE usually requires repeated head trauma, and is much more likely in people who continue to sustain blows to the head after they’re already dealing with an injury. Broglio is confident that sufficient rest and recovery after a concussion can prevent CTE. Allowing yourself time to heal after a head injury could eliminate potentially long-term damages.
Cyclists are far more at risk for traumatic brain injury than CTE. Traumatic brain injury can happen in just one cycling accident, and can be catastrophic. Even if you are wearing a helmet and feel fine afterwards, you should always get yourself thoroughly checked out to make sure you do not have an internal injury that will manifest later, such as a brain bleed.
Frederick M. Dudek is an avid cyclist himself and spends his days advocating for bike safety while fighting for riders injured in bicycle accidents in San Diego and the nearby area.