CTE & Football

Fall means friends, fun, food go along with football! In the past decade, another thing that has gone along with football is CTE.

CTE stands for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. It is a degenerative brain disease most commonly found in athletes and military veterans. It can affect anyone with a history of repetitive brain trauma. With repetitive brain trauma, a protein known as Tau forms clumps that slowly spread throughout the brain killing brain cells.

CTE can only be diagnosed after death through brain tissues analysis. First, we should be aware of those who are risk. Anyone who has suffered repetitive hits to the head are at risk. In modern day this included boxers, MMA fighters, soccer players, ice hockey players, tackle football players, military veterans, and those who are victims of repeated domestic violence.

There are certain risk factors to keep in mind. Those at higher risk for developing CTE are individuals who have had repetitive hits to the head before the age of 12 and the length of the exposure to head impacts.

There is no treatment for CTE, but symptoms can be managed. Symptoms can include impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and paranoid.  As the disease progresses patients may experience memory loss, confusion, impaired judgement, and dementia.

Working with a cognitive behavioral therapist can help patient manage mood symptoms including depression, irritability, and anxiety. Massage, acupuncture, or medication may be helpful for headaches, and memory training exercises can be helpful in continuing daily living despite difficulty with memory.

According to a New York Times report from 2017, a neuropathologist Dr. Ann McKee examined the brains of 112 NFL players. All but one were found to have CTE. Most famously, it was found that Aaron Hernandez suffered from the most severe case of CTE ever found in a person his age. Hernandez was serving a prison sentence for murder at the time of his suicide at age 27.

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