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Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or C.T.E. is a progressive degenerative disease which affects the brain of individuals who have experienced repeated concussions and traumatic brain injuries. C.T.E. often occurs in people who play contact sports. C.T.E. causes the brain to gradually deteriorate and lose mass. C.T.E. also causes some areas of the brain to accumulate tau protein, a substance which can cause major interference with neuron functioning.
C.T.E. symptoms can be debilitating and life changing. Common symptoms of C.T.E. include erratic behavior memory loss, aggression, depression, impaired judgment, and onset of dementia. C.T.E. is difficult to diagnose as it manifests with symptoms common to the aging process.
C.T.E. has been in the news recently due to recent publicity from pro football players. However, C.T.E. does not just occur in older adults. This week, it was reported that Pop Warner Football, the nation’s largest youth football program, settled a lawsuit with a family whose son played football in the league and later committed suicide. Joseph Chernach played Pop Warner football for four years. In 2012, Chernach killed himself at age 25 and was posthumously diagnosed with having C.T.E.
C.T.E was first diagnosed in 2002 by Drs. Bennet Omalu and Julian Bailes. The diagnosis occurred on a professional football player. To date, C.T.E. has only been diagnosable through post-mortem examinations of the brain.
As concussion awareness and brain trauma awareness rise in the United States, many sporting agencies are taking additional steps to decrease hits to the head. The question remains whether these steps go far enough to protect players.