Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative brain disease usually found in anyone with a repeated history of brain trauma. While rare, a study found that 6% of the population surveyed has shown signs of CTE at some point in their life.
CTE has been visible in people as young as 17. However, it’s important to note that symptoms generally don’t begin to appear until many years after sustaining traumatic trauma to the brain.
In the Media
The degenerative disease has been known since the 1920s but gained awareness back in 2007 when it was discovered that football player Andre Waters suffered from the disease, which ultimately led to his death by suicide. As years went by, it was found that many former professional athletes’ suicides were linked to CTE—one of the most prevalent deaths being Aaron Hernandez’s.
Sadly, the N.F.L. denied many claims connecting the disease with repetitive blows to the head after significant scientific evidence proved so. Former professional players filed a class-action lawsuit in which the league paid a $1 billion settlement agreeing to stop using race-based methods when it came to evaluating dementia claims which specifically denied benefits to Black players. Due to the rise of awareness of CTE, the N.F.L. has adopted intensive protocols for any player who displays signs of a TBI.
As stated earlier, CTE is the result of repetitive blows to the head over a prolonged period. These jobs and activities leave many at risk of traumatic brain injuries (TBI):
- Sports like football, boxing, martial arts, and hockey.
- Military duty, like being exposed to explosions or combat.
- Victims of domestic violence or any physically abusive situation.
Essentially, CTE is more prevalent in those whose brain trauma began early in life. According to this study, it was found that deceased football players who had confirmed cases of CTE that began playing football in their elementary school years showed signs of CTE 13 years earlier than players who started later.
Unfortunately, CTE can only be diagnosed postmortem through a brain tissue analysis. While CTE cannot be identified while a patient is alive, some signs and symptoms can lead a doctor to believe a person is suffering from this degenerative brain disease.
Symptoms of CTE often do not show up until years later and are pretty similar to diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. These symptoms include:
- Mood swings
- Impulsive behavior
- Short-term memory loss
- Lack of fair judgment
- Difficulty maintaining balance
FAQs About CTE
When should I see a doctor?
You should always see a medical professional after a TBI to get a proper diagnosis. Even if you are unsure if you’ve suffered from a mild concussion, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Will my concussion cause CTE?
Studies suggest that CTE is caused by repetitive trauma to the brain, so it would be rare if a single concussion led to a CTE diagnosis. Remember, just because you are displaying symptoms of CTE does not mean that you are suffering from the disease. There can be a multitude of causes of these symptoms, and if you are concerned, you should speak with a specialist.
Can CTE be cured?
Sadly, there is no cure for CTE. However, there is ongoing research aimed at understanding how this disease develops, including the way doctors can potentially diagnose the disease while alive. If you or your loved one are suffering from symptoms of CTE, the Concussion Legacy Foundation offers resources on how to live with the disease.
Do helmets help reduce the risk of CTE?
While newer helmets were designed with technology meant to decrease the impact on the brain, helmets are not proven to reduce the risk of CTE. Some experts believe that newer helmets give players an incentive to hit harder, leading to more dangerous tackling, which can increase the players' risk for concussions.
Should my kid retire from sports after a few concussions?
Many factors should be taken into consideration when it comes to pulling your children away from the sport they love. It may be time to retire if a child has had a history of multiple concussions or a few severe concussions. We suggest speaking with a brain specialist if they begin to display signs of CTE, like frequent headaches, memory loss, or aggression.
What’s the difference between Alzheimer’s disease and CTE?
While there are many similarities between the two diseases, Alzheimer’s does not present itself until someone is in their 60s, unlike CTE which presents itself during a person’s 40s. Also, symptoms of Alzheimer’s start off with memory loss, while symptoms of CTE start with aggression and issues with judgment and problem-solving.
Can I hold someone responsible for my CTE diagnosis?
Yes, you can hold someone responsible for your CTE diagnosis if your injuries were the result of another person’s negligence. While negligence may be hard to determine in some situations, an experienced catastrophic injury attorney can let you know if you’re able to pursue legal action.