New Study Could Change How CTE Is Viewed
CTE, short for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, has become a hot topic of conversation in the news. As more information comes to light, scientists are realizing how devastating the effects of CTE can be. A newly released study, however, could potentially change how scientists view the disease and who could be affected by it.
What Is CTE?
CTE is a degenerative brain disease. It is commonly seen in military veterans, athletes, and others who have a history of repetitive brain trauma. CTE is not just limited to professional athletes either. Amateur athletes, including those that play high school and youth sports, are just as likely to develop CTE as any professional athlete. The disease has been identified in people as young as 17. Unfortunately, symptoms do not begin to appear until years after head impacts have occurred.
When CTE occurs, a protein called Tau clumps and slowly spreads throughout the brain, killing healthy brain cells in the process. As this occurs, a patient’s mood and behavior will begin to change. This typically occurs in their late 20s or 30s. Patients typically exhibit
• Problems with impulse control
After behavior symptoms appear, cognitive symptoms then begin to appear. This typically occurs in a patient’s 40s or 50s. They can have issues with thinking and memory, confusion, impaired judgment, and progressive dementia. These symptoms can continue to worsen over time.
CTE research is fairly new, with the first case not being discovered until 2002. For a long while, scientists were not able to identify CTE in living patients. However, toward the end of 2017 doctors were able to test a former NFL player for CTE while he was still alive. Being able to do so regularly would be a groundbreaking development. If those who suffered a traumatic brain injury in the workplace were able to be tested for CTE, it could significantly impact lawsuits and potential damages that are issued in these cases.
A Shift In CTE Thinking
For a long while, it was believed that repeated concussions caused CTE. Much of this line of thinking was because football players, who frequently suffer from traumatic brain injuries, typically exhibit the most significant cases of CTE.
For example, Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriot convicted of murder who later committed suicide in his jail cell, was found to have the most severe case of CTE ever discovered in a 27-year-old. Hernandez donated his brain upon passing. The brain was in pristine condition, which helped significantly advance CTE research.
Hernandez’s brain was donated to the Boston University CTE Center. A few months after his brain was researched, BU came out with new groundbreaking research about CTE. Dr. Lee Goldstein revealed that it was not just concussions that caused CTE. Instead, it was found that smaller, repetitive hits were more likely to cause CTE. Goldstein also indicated that it does not take years or decades for the disease to develop, as initially thought.
Because of this research, doctors are realizing more and more that it’s not just football athletes who are vulnerable. Every athlete who plays a contact sport or worker who suffers a traumatic brain injury may be at risk of developing CTE.