BU neurologist studying concussions in athletes and soldiers
Photo by Asia Kepka
The National Academy of Medicine (NAM) is made up of more than 2,000 international members, elected by their peers, for outstanding achievements in medicine. Ann McKee, a School of Medicine professor of neurology and pathology, director of the Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center, and chief of neuropathology at the Boston VA Healthcare System, has been elected in recognition of the huge impact that her research on brain injuries in football players and military servicepeople has had on public health.
BU Today: Your work on concussions has been nothing short of groundbreaking. Can you recall the moment when you realized this was a defining issue that you wanted to pour your research into?
McKee: I had become very interested in the deterioration found in boxers’ brains, and when I saw the brain of John Grimsley, a 45-year-old football player in 2008, I was stunned to see the same pattern of pathology that I found in the boxers. I knew immediately that this was very important. I was a lifelong football fan; I knew that football players damaged their knees and hips, but it was a shock to find that they were damaging their brains as well. And with each additional case that came into the lab, the evidence grew stronger and the importance of the findings to public health became more evident.
We hear so much talk about head trauma from football. Can you talk about how prevalent head trauma is in the military and why that became a second focus of your work?
I’ve worked at the Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital for 25 years. Over 360,000 military service members were exposed to traumatic brain injury from blast and impact injury in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. Although there are similarities between blast injury and athletic injury, we know far less about military-related …