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—Arlene R. Taylor PhD

Q. I’ve been reading about Traumatic Brain Injury or TBI. Now I heard that NFL legend Frank Gifford had something called CTE. What is that?

A. CTE stands for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. In the past you may have heard it referred to as DP (Dementia Pugilistica) or "punch drunk" or pugilistic Parkinson's, because it was initially identified in people with a history of boxing. CTE is a type of encephalopathy, which basically means brain damage, malfunction, or disease. A broad range of symptoms range from mild memory loss or subtle personality changes to seizures, coma, severe mental loss (or dementia) or death.

No surprise; CTE has been most commonly found in professional athletes participating in contact sports such as ice hockey, boxing, wrestling, American and Association football and games that involve "heading" of the ball, along with stunt performers, and other types of contact-sports such as and soccer or soccer-like Other individuals who have been diagnosed with CTE were involved in military service with blast injuries, had a previous history of chronic seizures, experienced domestic abuse, and/or were involved in other activities that resulted in repetitive head collisions. Reports of CTE have steadily increased in younger athletes, perhaps due to increased awareness of the issue and perhaps due in part to athletes becoming bigger and stronger producing greater magnitudes of force in collision. CTE involves a general degeneration of brain tissue and the accumulation of tau protein. A broad range of symptoms can include memory loss, aggression, confusion, personality changes, and depression. Symptoms may appear years or decades after the trauma. A test to determine the presence of CTE while the person is alive is not yet available. It can diagnosed based on a post-mortem brain analysis.

 

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