Scientists have discovered a link between dementia, white matter in the brain, and the neurodegenerative disease CTE in former American football players.

When it comes to our brain health, both gray and white stuff matter, researchers say. White matter is made up of all the connections linking together the brain’s working neuron cells, collectively known as gray matter.

Scientists have long known that traumatic brain injuries and concussions contribute to white matter injury, which breaks down the connections between the brain’s neurons and associate with dementia.

But more recently, researchers have attributed subconcussive repetitive head impacts—like the kind of hits football players experience—to causing white matter injury.

A new study in JAMA Neurology is one of the first to reveal the biological mechanisms that link years of playing football to white matter injury, which might contribute to dementia in people with CTE.

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