What Is CTE?

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a type of brain disorder that’s caused by repeated trauma to the head. Like other encephalopathies, CTE is a degenerative disease, meaning it will only get worse with time. 

Most confirmed cases of CTE have been found in athletes who participate in contact sports such as boxing and football. Anyone with a history of repeated incidents of trauma to the head can develop CTE. 

The symptoms of CTE can have a drastic effect on the sufferer’s physical and mental health. Unfortunately, there is no cure, and the only way to diagnose the disorder is through a post-mortem autopsy. 

The Causes of CTE

Anyone can get a concussion, and many people do. According to the University of Pittsburgh Medical College, up to 3 million people experience sports- or recreation-related concussions each year. However, it takes more than a handful of concussions to develop CTE. 

People who have been diagnosed with this disorder have suffered hundreds or even thousands of concussions over many years. In addition to athletes, those who serve in the military and victims of childhood and/or domestic violence and other types of interpersonal violence are also at risk. 

Forty-one of the world’s top experts in brain injury joined the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to confirm that repeated traumatic brain injury is the cause of CTE. 

Diagnosing CTE

Brain tissue analysis after death is currently the only way to diagnose CTE. Doctors who specialize in brain diseases use a combination of chemicals to examine a slice of brain tissue and make abnormal tau protein visible. 

CTE causes portions of the brain to waste away. The nerve cells responsible for conducting electrical impulses become too injured to complete communication, causing atrophy. 

The process of diagnosis can take several months. This analysis is not a typical part of an autopsy. The methods and knowledge needed to diagnose CTE are relatively new. 

People with CTE may also show signs of other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease. However, CTE produces a unique and recognizable pattern of tau protein that is different from the tau buildup found in Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. 

The Symptoms of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

There are no known symptoms that are unique to CTE. Some of the possible symptoms also occur in other brain disorders. 

The people who were confirmed by an autopsy to have CTE exhibited some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Memory loss
  • Aggression
  • Trouble thinking clearly
  • Difficulty with organizational tasks and planning
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Depression
  • Substance misuse
  • Mood swings and unstable emotions
  • Difficulty with walking and balance
  • Parkinsonism (shaking, trouble with speech, and slow movements)

The presence of motor neuron disease is also a potential symptom of CTE. 

When Do CTE Symptoms Appear?

Symptoms don’t appear immediately after a head injury, such as the impact a person might experience in a car accident. They develop slowly and may take many decades of repeated head trauma to be noticeable. 

CTE symptoms appear in two forms. The first form happens in early life, up to the early 30s. During this stage, behavioral and mental health issues are more common. The second form of CTE symptoms occurs around age 60 and includes thinking and memory problems that may progress to dementia. 

When To Seek Medical Advice

Even if CTE can’t be diagnosed in living people, the symptoms can still be treated. If you are at risk for CTE, especially if you are experiencing these situations, seek medical attention. 

Head Injury

If you have injured your head in a slip and fall accident or your child received a head injury while playing, call your healthcare provider right away. Immediate medical care may be recommended. 

Memory Problems

Any concerns about your memory warrant a checkup. See your provider if you have lapses in your memory, have trouble recalling familiar names or faces, or are experiencing any type of behavior or thinking problems. 

Mood and Personality Changes

Everyone experiences occasional mood changes, but if you have become anxious or depressed or are exhibiting impulsive behavior or aggression, call your physician. 

Suicidal Thoughts

Research indicates that individuals with CTE have a higher risk for suicide. If you’re thinking of hurting yourself, call 911 or the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline immediately. If someone you know is threatening to harm themselves, call 911 and stay with them until help arrives. 

Treatments For CTE

There is no cure for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, but symptoms can be treated. One study found that a type of immunotherapy known as monoclonal antibody therapy may be effective. 

Other treatments include:

  • Medications such as atypical antipsychotics, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and cholinesterase inhibitors
  • Memory exercises
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Speech therapy

CTE is a serious and frightening disorder, but it’s not a death sentence. Lifestyle changes like managing stress and creating a regular daily routine can help an individual manage their symptoms. 

CTE may make a person more vulnerable to impulsive behaviors. Be aware that drug use, gambling, or risky sexual behavior could be related to the disorder. If you or someone you care about is living with CTE symptoms, it’s important to build a network of support. Consider joining a peer support group or ask your healthcare provider for recommendations. 

Seek Help If You Are Suffering From Suspected CTE

CTE is a progressive brain disorder caused by repeated head injuries over a long period of time. It is not caused by a single impact, like the kind that can happen in a car or truck accident, but any serious head injury requires a medical evaluation. 

It is only possible to diagnose CTE with an autopsy, and there is no cure. Symptoms are similar to the symptoms of other neurodegenerative diseases and include memory problems, mood disorders, and behavioral changes. 

Treatments for suspected CTE are effective and can help improve life quality. See your doctor if you’re at risk for CTE or if you are experiencing one or more symptoms of the disorder.

Contact the Arizona Brain Injury Lawyers at Curiel & Runion Car Accident and Personal Injury Lawyers Today

If you need legal help, contact our Phoenix personal injury attorneys at Curiel & Runion Car Accident and Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free case review today.

Curiel & Runion Car Accident and Personal Injury Lawyers
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Phoenix, AZ 85014
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