Raising Awareness for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy
By Tucker Hansen
Link to Presentation: CTE Presentation
What is it?
- Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy is a progressive degenerative disease which afflicts the brain of people who have suffered repeated concussions and traumatic brain injuries, such as athletes who take part in contact sports, members of the military and others
What Causes CTE?
- Unfortunately, the research is not at the point to determine the exact number of concussive injuries it takes to initiate permanent brain deterioration. What is known is that repetitive brain injury is linked with cases of CTE.
- Activities that tend to lead to CTE
- Military Service
- Other activities that involve brain injury
How CTE Affects People’s Lives
People may experience:
- Difficulty thinking (cognitive impairment)
- Impulsive behavior
- Depression or apathy
- Short-term memory loss
- Difficulty planning and carrying out tasks
- Emotional instability
- Substance abuse
- Suicidal thoughts or behavior
- Speech and language difficulties
- Motor impairment, such as difficulty walking, tremor, loss of muscle movement, weakness or rigidity
- Trouble swallowing (dysphagia)
- Vision and focusing problems
- Trouble with sense of smell (olfactory abnormalities)
How Can CTE Be Diagnosed?
- Unfortunately, there is no reliable way to diagnose a living person with CTE, as it can only be definitively diagnosed by studying brain tissue under a microscope after death
- However, researchers are actively trying to find a test for CTE that can be used while people are alive
- Hopefully, neuropsychological tests, brain imaging and biomarkers will eventually be able to diagnose CTE
- Currently, it is believed that imaging of amyloid and tau proteins will aid in diagnosis
Personal Cases of CTE
- The Story of Fred McNeill, a former Minnesota Viking, who suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy
- The Story of Aaron Hernandez, a former New England Patriot, who suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy
Take the Quiz
- Link to Quiz on Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy
My Personal Perspective on CTE
- The past two summers I had the opportunity to shadow a neurologist at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health who is currently conducting a research study regarding professional fighters and brain injury. During my time at Lou Ruvo I gained some insight into the effects of repetitive brain trauma on people who participate in contact sports. What I personally took away from my experience was that 1) repetitive blows to the head certainly have the potential to cause permanent brain damage 2) some athletes underestimate the gravity of frequent head trauma and 3) there is so much that we do not know and so much research to be done on the topic of brain injury and CTE.