CTE symptoms appear years or even decades after repeated injuries to the head and include changes in thinking, mood, and behavior. Behavioral changes are commonly perceived as issues with impulse control, which can lead to aggressive or violent conduct or drug misuse problems. Other common symptoms include memory loss, confusion, trouble with language processing, and visual disturbances. The link between repeated head trauma and CTE has been reported by multiple studies.
Does CTE cause violence? No. But it may aggravate existing mental health conditions, such as depression or bipolar disorder. Also, people with CTE may be more likely to die by suicide. Finally, individuals with CTE may be at a greater risk for developing other neurological disorders, such as dementia or Alzheimer's disease.
An experienced neurologist will be able to diagnose CTE using an examination of your brain tissue. This diagnosis can only be made after death; therefore, it is not possible to know if you have CTE while you are alive.
How is it diagnosed after death? In order to confirm a diagnosis of CTE, a pathologist will need to examine your brain tissue under a microscope.
Memory loss, disorientation, poor judgment, impulse control issues, anger, sadness, anxiety, suicidality, parkinsonism, and, finally, degenerative dementia are all hallmarks of CTE. These symptoms frequently appear years, if not decades, after the last head trauma or the cessation of intensive sports participation.
CTE is a chronic disease that can only be diagnosed post-mortem. However, research studies are providing more information about this condition.
Here are some links to articles that discuss CTE:
National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) - NINDS has funded several research studies on athletes who have died with evidence of traumatic brain injury (TBI). One study found evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in 94% of the athletes examined. Another study found evidence of CTE in 100% of the athletes examined.
Boston University School of Medicine - In 2008, researchers from this institution published findings from a study of 119 former NFL players' brains. They found evidence of CTE in 96 of the players.
The Concussion Blog - The Concussion Blog is an online publication that discusses topics related to concussion health and safety. The blog is authored by medical professionals who are committed to improving concussion awareness.
Short-term memory loss, such as repeatedly asking the same question or having trouble recalling names or phone numbers, is a common sign of CTE. Such as mood fluctuations, melancholy, and feelings of increased anxiety, frustration, or agitation are also common. Physical symptoms include headaches, insomnia, pain around the collarbone area, stomach problems, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, difficulty controlling body temperature, and changes in appetite.
CTE is often found in people who work in jobs that require them to perform repetitive motions, such as dentists who drill holes in teeth during dental procedures, surgeons who use the same knife to cut skin while performing surgery, and carpenters who build houses frame by frame.
The good news is that CTE can be prevented through proper training techniques and occupational safety measures. For example, employers should provide workers with appropriate tools so they can carry out their jobs safely. They should also set up preventative measures, such as using rubber gloves when handling knives or needles.
There is no cure for CTE. However, there are treatments available that may help relieve some of the symptoms. These include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, sleep aids, and physical therapy.
People with CTE should not drive vehicles operated by others or operate machinery, unless explicitly told otherwise by their doctor.
In early life, between the late 20s and early 30s, the first form of CTE may cause mental health and behavioral issues including depression, anxiety, impulsivity, and aggression. The second form of CTE is thought to cause symptoms later in life, around age 60. In this case, dementia and other cognitive problems may be the most prominent feature.
CTE can only be confirmed through an autopsy. However, because the disease markers are found in both active players and veterans, it is believed that a large number of people are at risk. Further, because the symptoms are similar to those of many other diseases, including Alzheimer's and schizophrenia, it can be difficult to diagnose.
The best way to avoid CTE is not to play football at all or else to stay in school and play some other sport.
If you are a football player and have been diagnosed with CTE, your career options will depend on how severe your symptoms are. Most people who have CTE can still work regular jobs but may need help managing symptoms such as impulsiveness and confusion. Because the disease is progressive, any efforts you make to manage its symptoms should be done so successfully that you don't feel the need for assistance anymore. With proper treatment, there is no reason you couldn't live as long as, or even longer than, someone without the disease.
CTE cannot yet be diagnosed. It can only be suspected in those who have suffered repetitive head trauma over the course of years while participating in sports or serving in the military. These individuals may develop symptoms such as confusion, memory loss, depression, and anxiety.
In addition to these symptoms, CTE will also show up on a brain scan as hyperintense signals within the cortex and along the walls of the ventricles. Scientists using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) have found evidence that people with CTE have more cortical thinning - or shrinkage-than do age-matched controls. This suggests that CTE is likely an ongoing process that gets worse over time.
People with CTE may also show signs of other neurological problems such as Parkinson's disease or ALS. Because CTE shares many symptoms with these other disorders, it can be difficult to diagnose without further investigation. A physician might suggest a patient forgo an MRI because of concerns about its safety. However, there are other ways of diagnosing CTE that do not involve an MRI.
Because the brain is always changing, medical professionals look at how much damage there is around certain nerves inside the skull to get an idea of what was happening to the brain all along. These areas are called white matter tracts because they are mostly made up of white tissue.
The study's findings suggest that CTE begins as focal cortical lesions that evolve into progressive neurodegeneration, and the disease worsens with age even in the absence of additional exposure to head trauma. This implies that JH would have had early signs of CTE, though the researchers were not able to examine his brain.
CTE was first described by Dr. Bennet O'Connor in 1922, when he observed similar lesions in deceased football players. Since then, a few other cases have been reported, but it wasn't until more recent years that scientists began to understand what was happening on a molecular level. In 2004, a University of Michigan team led by Dr. Robert Stern published results from studying the brains of 10 former NFL players. They found evidence of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in all of the cases, but also detected an abnormal buildup of hyperphosphorylated tau in their frontal cortex. From this, they concluded that these players had suffered multiple impacts to the head which had caused damage to areas of the brain involved in thinking and behavior.
Since then, other studies have confirmed this finding. In 2014, researchers at Boston University performed neuropathological examinations on the brains of 21 retired NFL players who had died between 2003 and 2013. They too discovered hyperphosphorylated tau in all of the samples, confirming previous research results.