May 30, 2017

Impact of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Research & Symptoms

Understanding the Impact of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

Surgeons and physicians in general may find it hard to enjoy sporting events such as boxing, hockey or other high impact sports such as football. With every blow to the head comes a risk of a significant and life threatening condition called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy which shows few warning signs and is commonly diagnosed post mortem.

This most severe level of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) results from frequent and repeated blunt force impact to the brain and skull. While a great deal is understood about the condition it is not frequently discussed as it tends to manifest itself in people who frequently engage in physical risk taking or deliberate injury. But the injury is also exceedingly common in our military veterans who experience multiple instances of trauma while deployed.

Researching the Cause and Symptoms

Presently the only way to diagnose a case of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is by evaluation of the tissue after death.  In the early 1900’s it was referred to as “punch-drunk syndrome” when it was observed to be a cause of impairment and death among professional boxers.

In 2008 Boston University created the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy and created a tissue bank of deceased patients to further study other factors including genetic predisposition to fatality, environmental causes and other markers of the injury. The research is funded in part by the National Football League (NFL) Players Association.

A lot of research is being conducted to try to predict the presence of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in order to prevent loss of life with patients who sustain frequent head and brain injury.   Symptoms and some early warning signs do exist in each of the four identified stages.

  • Stage One involves headaches and attention and concentration impairment
  • Stage Two presents with Stage One symptoms as well as behavioral impairments
  • Stage Three involves impairment to executive problem solving including multitasking, organization and judgment
  • Stage Four can include signs of dementia, memory loss and cognitive impairments that significantly interfere with day to day functioning and normal living

While research is still ongoing for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), the understanding is that in all cases there is a progression of impairment that coincides with the frequency and severity of injury.    The more often the injury occurs the more pronounced the symptoms become although it can take time for an individual to advance through all four stages of injury.

The rate of progression varies from one individual to the next and can occur quickly for some or develop over the course of a decade or more, depending on the nature of the repetitive injuries.   This is significant for studying the impact to veterans and military servicemen who sustain repetitive injuries due to detonation blasts and other sources.   It is hoped that an understanding of the condition will help create more reliable warning signs and indicators to allow for earlier intervention.

One of the leading websites for resources for injured or their care givers is Brainline.org.   Visit the website for more information on Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), clinical studies and support groups.

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