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Sydney Brain Bank working on new NRL player brain donor program

The Sydney Brain Bank at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA), has a new donor program to investigate the impact of head injuries on former NRL players.

The donor program is being run in conjunction with the University of Newcastle, which is working with retired NRL players to monitor their health.

Retired players can now elect to donate their brains for research at the Sydney Brain Bank. The research team led by Sydney Brain Bank Director Claire Shepherd will examine whether these brains contain any cellular changes, such as the presence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

“This is the first program in Australia to study the impact of sports injuries on the brains of former NRL players who have been monitored in the clinic for years before their death,” said Dr Shepherd.

“Our program of research may lead to a better understanding of what can be done to reduce the risk of brain injury-related disorders among people who are exposed to repetitive head trauma,” said Dr Shepherd.

The Sydney Brain Bank welcomes the announcement by the NRL of $250,000 to assist the University of Newcastle’s research and the sporting code’s encouragement for former players to join this study.

“This is a research area that will require long-term commitment and funding.  This is a complex area of research and the findings from this new donor program will help us to answer key questions about sports-related brain injuries,” said Dr Shepherd.

The Sydney Brain Bank currently works with 10 brain donor programs.  These focus on conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, motor neuron disease, Huntington’s disease, frontotemporal lobar degeneration and neurologically unaffected individuals.  Jointly funded by NeuRA and UNSW, the Sydney Brain Bank currently holds more than 650 brains.