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Sports concussion research, chronic traumatic encephalopathy and the media: repairing the disconnect
  1. Andrew W Kuhn1,
  2. Aaron M Yengo-Kahn1,2,
  3. Zachary Y Kerr3,
  4. Scott L Zuckerman1,2
  1. 1Vanderbilt Sports Concussion Center, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee, USA
  2. 2Department of Neurological Surgery, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee, USA
  3. 3Department of Exercise and Sport Science, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Scott L Zuckerman, Department of Neurological Surgery, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Medical Center North T-4224, Nashville, TN 37212, USA; scott.zuckerman{at}

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A tragic case

Todd Ewen was a National Hockey League (NHL) ‘tough guy’ who accumulated over 1900 penalty minutes in 518 games across 12 NHL seasons. He recently committed suicide after bouts of depression at the age of 49. Before an autopsy had been performed, the media pre-emptively wrote about how his depression and suicide were most likely the result of a career in the NHL, repetitive head trauma and the inevitable onset of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).1 Ewen himself was convinced he had developed CTE, as his wife recalled him being terrified by the thought of a future living with a neurodegenerative disease.2 Ewen's brain was examined by neuropathologists at the University of Toronto—they found no evidence of CTE. So we ask, how did a professional athlete who had treatable depression, come to believe that he had an untreatable condition and committed suicide?3

The availability cascade, headline news and double standards

The public's perception of sport-related concussion (SRC) and CTE is likely not based on the totality of empirical data, but rather …

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  • Twitter Follow Andrew Kuhn at @kuhnaw

  • Contributors AWK and SLZ conceived the article. AWK, SLZ, AMY-K and ZYK contributed by drafting and editing the article.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.