What is CTE?
CTE stands for “chronic traumatic encephalopathy,” and is a type of degenerative brain condition that affects those who have suffered from concussions and sustained other forms of head trauma over a period of time. It is caused by a buildup of tau, which is an abnormal protein that strangles brain cells. The protein is found to affect areas of the brain that control memory, emotions, and other brain functions. CTE affects a wide range of people including athletes, military personnel, and countless others who may have suffered from a traumatic brain injury
Kevin Bieniek, Mayo Neurobiology of Disease Program discusses Mayo study published in Acta Neuropathologica, December 2015
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of CTE are in line with most traumatic brain injuries and have a resemblance to indicators of Alzheimer’s disease. CTE has been linked to such symptoms as depression, dementia, and memory loss. These conditions may develop over a period of time after sustaining serious head injuries, or in some cases, rather suddenly.
Am I at risk of developing CTE?
Only recently has CTE been recognized as a serious medical ailment, and so research is scarce on the prevention and diagnosis of the condition. As of right now, the only sure way to effectively diagnose CTE is post-mortem by exploring the areas of the brain affected by the tau protein. This is why it is so crucial that CTE be given the same level of care and attention that other more prolific illnesses receive in the eye of the public if medical research is to advance on this condition.
Contact sports such as football make athletes vulnerable to this condition, and soldiers are especially susceptible to CTE as a result of blast-related injuries endured on the battlefield. However, it is still possible to develop CTE even while off the football field. As many as 1.7 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury each year in America and may be at risk of developing CTE.
Is there a cure for CTE?
At the moment, there does not seem to be a cure for CTE, but research is being made in order to find a way to locate signs of CTE before it can create an even larger impact on your mental health. However, the best cures one can make for CTE are preventative measures. If you play a rough contact sport, make sure all the appropriate measures have been taken for safety, and ensure that protective equipment such as helmets have been secured. This is essential, as repeated blows to the head may hurt in the short-term, but could heavily damage the brain long-term as well.
However, safety equipment is by no means an absolute cure for CTE, considering there have been many studies which correlate to long-term NFL players withstanding multiple blows to the head, resulting in CTE-related symptoms.