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What Is CTE?

Published in Personal Injury on February 8, 2022

Reading Time: 2 minutes

You probably know that repetitive head trauma is not good for the brain. But did you know that repeated concussions can lead to a degenerative brain disease? This condition is called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), and it is known to cause devastation to the veterans, athletes, and other people it affects.

This post will cover all of the pressing questions you may have about this little-known and little-understood condition.

What Is CTE?

A big portion of our understanding of CTE today comes from the work of Dr. Ann  McKee. She is a renowned researcher and the director of the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank, the largest tissue repository in the world and a major research center for brain injuries and diseases.

Because of researchers like Dr. McKee, doctors understand that CTE is caused by a malfunctioning protein known as tau. This malfunction results in a chain reaction in which the tau protein spreads and kills otherwise healthy brain cells. 

CTE is non-discriminatory and can occur in anyone. Evidence of CTE has been found in people as young as 17, although it’s more commonly found in older people. 

Former players of contact sports are the most common group of CTE sufferers. Boxers and football players are especially affected, as they are often subjected to repeated blows to the head. 

What Are the Common Symptoms of CTE?

Anyone who suffers from CTE may begin showing symptoms as early as their early 20s. 

Symptoms may start with simple mood swings and then lead to these other behavioral changes:

  • Anxiety
  • Difficulties with impulse control
  • Depression
  • Aggression
  • Paranoia

Because CTE affects the brain, there are also a few cognitive symptoms to be aware of. 

Those include:

  • Dementia
  • Confusion 
  • Short-term memory loss

These kinds of cognitive symptoms often don’t present until later in life, when a victim is 40 years or older. Sometimes, but not always, the symptoms worsen over time.

How Is CTE Diagnosed?

Unfortunately, CTE can only be diagnosed after the death of a victim. During the autopsy, a doctor specializing in brain tissue will slice the tissue and analyze the tau protein content. This doctor will also watch for the distinct pattern of tau protein that signifies the presence of CTE. Overall, the diagnosis process may take months.

However, it’s important to note that CTE testing is not included in a standard autopsy. If you believe a loved one suffered from CTE, you may need to reach out to a brain tissue doctor to arrange special testing. 

How Can You Prevent CTE?

If you fall into a high-risk group for CTE, you may wonder how to avoid the degenerative disease. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect yourself. The best way to prevent CTE is to avoid activities that may cause repeated head trauma.

It is also recommended that you:

  • Wear a protective helmet and gear when playing contact sports 
  • Follow your doctor’s guidance after sustaining a concussion
  • Obtain medical advice if you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned in this article

If you do begin to notice symptoms of CTE, talk to your doctor. Sometimes behavioral changes and memory loss point to other health conditions, like stress or a reaction to a medication. If the problem persists, your care provider may recommend you to a memory clinic. 

When Should You Contact an Attorney? 

If you believe that you or a loved one is suffering or has suffered from CTE, you may wonder if you are entitled to compensation. An attorney can help you determine whether another party was at fault for your brain injury. From there, you can decide whether legal action is necessary. 

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