Rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder (RBD) is surprisingly common in athletes and may signal chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) caused by brainstem tau and Lewy body pathologies, new research suggests.
CTE is a neurodegenerative disorder linked to years of repetitive head impacts from playing professional football and other contact sports.
“Repetitive head impacts may damage sleep-relevant brainstem nuclei and lead to REM sleep behavior disorder,” senior author Thor Stein, MD, PhD, neuropathologist at VA Boston Healthcare in Massachusetts, said in a webinar hosted by the Concussion Legacy Foundation.
“This is something both athletes and their doctors need to be aware of,” added Stein, who is an assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.
The findings were published online September 17 in Acta Neuropathologica.
In RBD, the paralysis that normally occurs during REM sleep is incomplete or absent, causing people to act out