chronic traumatic encephalopathy research

Research on Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) Highlights NFL & Sports Concussion Issue

New research sheds further light on the growing interest and controversy surrounding CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy — the disease now associated with repeat brain trauma caused by concussions in athletes.

The research, detailed in a study that appeared in the August 21, 2013 issue of the journal Neurology finds that repeated brain trauma may affect people in two primary ways: behavior or mood, or memory and thinking ability.

CTE is associated with athletes, military members and others who have undergone repeated head injuries, including concussions and subconcussive trauma.

This is the largest study to date (in cases of CTE confirmed by autopsy) of the clinical presentation and course of the disease, according to Robert A. Stern, PhD, a professor of neurology and neurosurgery at Boston University School of Medicine. But, cautioned Stern, because the study is small, there may be other manifestations of CTE.

The study was conducted on 36 male athletes, aged 17 to 98. A review of their medical records and interviews with their family members revealed that a total of 22 of them had behavior and mood problems as their first CTE symptoms, while 11 had memory and thinking problems as their first symptoms. Three of those in the study showed no symptoms of CTE at the time of their death.

Although Stern cautions the study has its limitations for various reasons, it lends to the general and growing interest in the ramifications of repeat head trauma and concussions.

That interest extends to developments in the first week of September 2013, when a lawsuit was settled between former players and the NFL, with the league tentatively agreeing to pay $765 million to those former players with health problems caused by concussions. Now, in what seems like a possible endless stream of such cases, barely a week following the announcement of the settlement, four former NFL players filed suit against the league and its helmet maker (Riddell, Inc.), claiming those parties hid information regarding the dangers of brain injury. The players want medical care for past, current and future NFL players.

At ANA, our interest in concussions and repeated head trauma includes research in finding ways to better the odds of reducing head injuries that have impacted athletes such as those in the NFL.

Read more on the study here.