What Is CTE?
Paul Brannon | July 12, 2022 | Brain Injuries
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a debilitating brain disease that has only recently begun to be studied in depth. CTE occurs when repeated head trauma leads to irreversible degeneration of brain tissue. Those engaged in occupations and activities involving recurring trauma to the head should be aware of the signs of CTE.
CTE can’t be reversed, and it can radically alter the quality of life of those affected and their loved ones. A personal injury attorney may be able to assist in gaining compensation to offset the costs of care associated with CTE.
CTE Is Rare But Serious
CTE is still being studied but has been around for a while. The first documentation of what is now called CTE occurred in the 1920s. The term “punch drunk” was used to describe the negative cognitive effects experienced by boxers. The term was used because the effects of repeated head trauma resembled the signs of drunkenness.
Similar reports of impaired cognitive faculties after prolonged participation in contact sports continued to be reported over time. It was only in 2005 that CTE was identified and named chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is still being studied. It’s known that a brain protein called tau behaves abnormally, setting off a reaction in other brain proteins that ultimately leads to tissue death.
What Are Common Symptoms of CTE?
Although CTE is a relatively rare form of brain injury, it’s a life-altering condition for those who suffer from it. Symptoms don’t typically present until later in life, but there have been cases of symptoms appearing in patients in their 20s.
The most common symptoms of CTE include:
- Mood swings
- Aggressive behavior
- Impulse control issues
Even these early symptoms can significantly change a person’s personality, impacting areas like family life, relationships, employment, and education. The cognitive impact of CTE becomes more pronounced over time.
Eventually, CTE leads to severe cognitive difficulties. Judgment becomes impaired, and it’s common for patients to experience confusion and short-term memory loss. The final outcome of CTE is dementia.
What Are the Risk Factors for CTE?
Most people don’t live a lifestyle that involves recurrent head trauma, which means that CTE is an understudied condition. Researchers are beginning to make strides in understanding the disease, but widespread awareness hasn’t been achieved.
Some individuals are at a higher risk of developing CTE because they are more likely to sustain repeated blows to the head. Those most likely to develop CTE are members of the military and contact sports athletes.
By far, the most confirmed CTE cases are among those who play tackle football.
Other sports that have resulted in confirmed CTE cases include:
- Professional wrestling
Developing CTE depends on many factors, such as genetics and length of participation in the activity involving head trauma. However, for those who engage in activities that bring a risk of CTE, knowing the signs can help those impacted recognize the problem and seek help.
New CTE Research Is Still Coming to Light
It’s difficult to diagnose CTE conclusively. This brain disease is still being studied, and for now, the primary way of confirming its presence is by examining the brain tissue after death. The first CTE diagnosis in a living patient occurred in 2016. MRI technology is making progress in identifying CTE in patients while still alive.
As research continues, more light is shed on the frequency and prognosis for CTE. Some studies show that the condition may be more common than scientists thought. A 2017 study of NFL players showed that 99% of football players showed signs of CTE.
If you notice signs of CTE in yourself or a loved one, taking action is essential. Seeing a medical doctor and speaking with a personal injury attorney are two ways to protect yourself when the threat of CTE looms over your future.
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