Understanding chronic traumatic encephalopathy

While even a single instance of head trauma may prove damaging, repeated brain injuries can lead to a medical condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). While this degenerative disorder is best known for afflicting pro-athletes, the fact is that anyone who suffers from numerous head injuries can be affected by this devastating condition.

According to CNN, CTE is currently without a cure. The condition is linked to a protein known as tau that accumulates as a result of repeated blows to the head, and this protein eventually impacts all areas of the brain. Additionally, there is no actual method of diagnosing CTE in a living person. Instead, the condition is identified after death via autopsy.

CTE is a degenerative condition, which means that symptoms will only continue to worsen over time. Some symptoms associated with CTE include disorientation, increased aggression and depression. CTE is very prevalent within certain populations, including professional football players. Military veterans are also at a greater risk of developing this condition, as are boxers. Some cases of CTE have even been linked to the development of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), another degenerative condition that is ultimately fatal.

The Mayo Clinic lists some other common side effects thought to be associated with CTE. Those afflicted often have trouble with language and speech, and may also exhibit motor impairment. Loss of short term memory is also common, as are executive function issues (referring to the ability to plan tasks and see them through). Those thought to be afflicted with CTE are urged to seek medical attention if suicidal thoughts occur, or if extreme changes in mood or personality are present after a concussion.