Understanding CTE Brain Injuries
Understanding the human brain remains one of the greatest complexities in scientific studies. With over 86 billion neurons and around a quadrillion synapses, we may never completely discern how the brain works. Because we don’t fully understand the brain, medical science can’t completely explain the way damage occurs and how it impacts function.
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a brain condition affecting only 1% of the general population, but as many as 40% of young athletes in contact sports. Unlike other brain injuries, CTE doesn’t begin with a single traumatic brain injury (TBI) but develops slowly over time in the brains of those who suffer repeated head impacts and multiple concussions.
What is CTE?
The word Encephalopathy stems from Greek words meaning “brain disease.” Since anything labeled “chronic” means long-term, chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a long-term brain disease caused by trauma. There isn’t a way to clearly diagnose CTE while the sufferer is alive, so researchers rely on studying the brains of those impacted by CTE after death.
Because there are no specific tests to diagnose CTE, doctors make a presumptive diagnosis based on the individual’s symptoms, a neurological examination, and whether or not there is a history of head injuries or contact sports. Often MRI imaging is used to rule out other brain abnormalities.
Symptoms of CTE develop over time and in severe cases, become a form of dementia similar to Alzheimer’s disease later in life.
Some research suggests this brain disease may be linked to sufferers receiving a second head injury while their brain hasn’t yet fully recovered from a previous injury. Other studies show that symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy stem from repetitive hits to the head even without concussions. Many people who develop CTE never had a head injury that caused loss of consciousness.
Symptoms of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy
Those who suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy experience a variety of symptoms including the following:
- Difficulty focusing
- Problems with short-term memory
- Changes in behavior
- Difficulty managing emotions, including sudden outbursts of anger
- Unclear speech
- Tremors and muscle-control problems
- Loss of coordination and balance
- Executive disfunction
- Self-harming behavior and suicidal thoughts
- Increasing aggression
Symptoms of CTE may begin many years or even decades after the repeated blows to the head. Later in life, those suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy experience increasing dementia.
If you or a loved one experiences any of the above symptoms and have a history of head injuries, it’s important to see a doctor or a Salt Lake City brain injury attorney to begin treating the symptoms to manage the disease.
How To Treat CTE Brain Injuries
CTE is mostly diagnosed in athletes, but it’s also seen in members of the military and those who’ve sustained multiple head injuries over time due to their careers or lifestyles. While there is no cure for CTE, doctors typically treat each separate symptom with medication and therapies. CTE is a degenerative brain condition that worsens over time, eventually leading to an inability to perform routine daily tasks and the need for full-time care.
Though CTE isn’t yet fully understood, researchers are still trying to discern the triggers, as well as the progression of CTE, and how repeated head injuries contribute to the degenerative changes in the brain.
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