Written by Madeline Head
It has finally happened, researchers have published the first case of a living person identifying with degenerative brain disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.
Many former NFL players, Aaron Hernandez, Junior Seau, and Fred McNeill, were found to have obtained chronic traumatic encephalopathy. This is a serious epidemic that is finally having awareness and help brought to it. With so many violent sports around the world, specifically the NFL, there should be more awareness brought to the issue as well as more protection.
The history of chronic traumatic encephalopathy:
The study was lead by Doctor Bennet Omalu, even though he was not named in the actual study, which he confirmed to CNN that the player, Fred McNeil, was the main subject of the case – he died in 2015. Unfortunately, the only way to effectively diagnosis chronic traumatic encephalopathy is with a brain exam after death.
The discovery of chronic traumatic encephalopathy occurred in 2012, by using an experimental brain scan that is able to trace the protein of CTE, tau. CNN reportedthis case study was published in the journal Neurosurgery this week.
What is chronic traumatic encephalopathy, CTE?
CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, as defined by Boston University CTE Center, is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in people with extensive amount of hits to the head. The repetitive brain trauma, even though it affects NFL players, is able to affect anyone specific person.
Repeated brain trauma causes and triggers a protein and build-up of an abnormal protein, tau. The symptoms as described by Boston University CTE Center, “The brain degeneration is associated with common symptoms of CTE including memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, suicidality, Parkinsonism, and eventually progressive dementia. These symptoms often begin years, or even decades after the last brain trauma or end of active athletic involvement.”
The repeated head trauma can stem from concussions that directly cause symptoms and concussions that do not. Genetics can be another factor of chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
There is no known treatment for CTE and studies have shown that high school football does not cause CTE. The data is still new and the research is still growing. But to be able to diagnosis people when they are still alive could be the key to see how common CTE really is, this would be vital for developing proper treatments for players.
It is important to continue to discuss the issue so the multi-billion corporations, like the NFL, are held accountable for the safety of their players. Sports can be deadly on and off the field. Since we enjoy them so much, we tend to forget that those are human beings that can break as easily as you and me. There needs to be even more precautions made to help and ensure these athletes stay safe.