Researchers at Arizona State University have conducted a study using language to indicate changes to brain caused by conditions like CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy). Published in the journal, Brain and Language, the research team which included Doctor Visar Berisha and Julie Liss, assessed the language skills in transcripts of interviews of 10 football players and 18 coaches and executives. Scientists have thought that the biological processes underlying brain changes could be identified before recognizable symptoms occur with language being a good indicator. As neurologically healthy individuals age the complexity of word usage and vocabulary remains stable until their mid-70’s. In this study, researchers found greater language changes in players as compared to the executives and coaches. While this preliminary study is too small to be a valid indicator of language change as an early indicator of neurological changes, the research team at Arizona State University is moving towards a larger scale study.
Language changes can be found in a number of neurological conditions other than CTE, such as Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Currently, the diagnosis can only be confirmed at autopsy. This language-based study offers a diagnostic view into these illnesses which can speed up intervention and rehabilitation. In athletes at risk for CTE from multiple concussions these early warning signs can prevent the person from further injury.