Skip to Content
Learn what the PACT Act means for your VA benefits

Astrogliosis Found in Contact Sport Athletes and Blast-Exposed Veterans


April 19, 2022

BOSTON , MA — A new study published April 13 in Acta Neuropathologica Communications, by Boston University and VA Boston HCS researchers at BU’s CTE Center, found that both contact sport athletes and blast-exposed Veterans had similar patterns of astrogliosis in brain regions susceptible to neurotrauma.

Astrogliosis is a process where brain cells known as astrocytes alter their structure and function in response to injury or disease. Astrocytes play an important role in maintaining normal brain health, and scientists are still working to understand what effects head trauma has on their regular functions that may be contributing to injury recovery or progression.

Previous studies have shown that military blast injury is associated with a unique pattern of reactive astrogliosis at the junction between grey and white matter in the cerebral cortex. This is the first study to quantitatively demonstrate that a history of repeated mild traumatic brain injury in American football players can also be sufficient to produce this pattern.

“The young average age at death – in their late 30s – and the presence of these reactive astrocytes in Veterans and athletes without CTE suggests these astrocytic changes may reflect processes that occur early in disease progression, prior to pathological protein accumulation,” said the study's lead author, PhD candidate Katharine Babcock. “This may point to astrocytic alterations as a potential early disease biomarker or therapeutic target for Veterans and athletes.”

The study is published online at


Photo caption (photos available upon request):
Representative microscopic images of the grey-white matter interface in the frontal cortex of an individual without head trauma (left), a Veteran with military blast exposure and contact sport play (middle), and an American football athlete (right). Reactive astrocytes are stained in green.


Media contacts

Winfield Danielson, Public Affairs Officer


Download media assets
See all news releases