The Rise of Awareness of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in Profession Sports
While watching the World Cup games, I can’t help but to ask myself, “can the accumulation of damage of heading the ball induce a concussion?” The answer to this question will remain a mystery until it is empirically tested. What we do know is that sport-related concussions (SRC), common in all sports, are in fact very serious injuries that should be properly assessed in order to prevent the development of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive brain disease resulting from multiple concussive events.
Before I proceed, I must clarify that athletes can suffer a concussion without experiencing loss of consciousness or amnesia, and that it does not necessarily have to be a direct blow to the head in order to induce a concussion. These very important, but overlooked, pieces of information can lead to an increase in the identification of concussions, a positive and giant step towards preventing CTE.
As discussed in a recent New York Times article, Chris Henry, the former Cincinnati Bengals wide-receiver, was the 22nd professional football player to be diagnosed with CTE after his death at the age of 26. It is unknown how many athletes, of all ages, are suffering from, or are currently at risk of developing CTE. Although Henry did not die as a direct result from CTE, he exhibited behavioral problems including depression, substance abuse, and poor-decision making abilities. All three behavioral problems could be key identifiers when diagnosing a patient with CTE. Although CTE can only be identified after the athlete has passed away, simple neuropsychological tests, involving memory and visuomotor tasks, have been excellent tools when assessing SRCs, showing promise in the current research field.
Currently, physicians and researchers are struggling to put the SRC-CTE puzzle together because of the many confounding variables, such as overlapping symptoms including headaches and dizziness, involved in this alarmingly underreported brain injury. To find out more information about this topic, stay tuned for the upcoming article in The Nerve about SRCs and CTE, written by John Batoha and myself.
See the NYT article here.