CTE confirmed after death of New Zealand professional rugby player

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A New Zealand professional rugby player who died last year may have suffered a traumatic brain injury from multiple blows to the head.

Billy Guydon's brain, donated by his family to the Human Brain Bank at the Auckland Neurological Foundation for testing, showed signs of stage 2 chronic traumatic encephalopathy. He passed away last May at the age of 33.

Kyton was a scrumhalf for the New Zealand Maori team and played Super Rugby for the Auckland-based Blues, Christchurch-based Crusaders and Wellington-based Hurricanes.

The report said Guyton had „background changes consistent with global hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy,” a term for brain injury.

CTE was noted by a pathologist from New Zealand and the brain was sent to an Australian pathologist for a second opinion, and „he was the one who gave it a stage 2 designation,” said Brain Bank Professor Maurice Curtis.

CTE can only be diagnosed after death. Stage 1 is classified as mild and stage 4 as severe.

„There are a certain number of modifiable risk factors in this case and concussions and knocks to the head are certainly one of them,” Curtis said.

Stage 2 symptoms include irrational outbursts and severe depressive episodes.

Billy Guyton's father, John Guyton, told Radio New Zealand that the symptoms clearly described his son's behaviour.

„The poor guy will spend hours in a small, dark closet because he can't handle being in the light,” said John Guyton. „Some mornings he would sit at the bottom of his shower tray and cry, trying to muster up the energy to move.”

In a statement, New Zealand Rugby said it continues to take steps to reduce the risk of head injuries at all levels of the game.

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„These include the introduction of smart mouthguards, lower tackle heights, contact guidelines, legislative changes, mandatory education for community practitioners and many other initiatives,” it said. „NZR is supporting world-leading research to better understand the long-term impacts of participation in rugby, including a focus on understanding the link between concussion and long-term brain health.”

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AP Rugby: https://apnews.com/hub/rugby

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