The NFL has come under fire lately because its commissioner, Roger Goodell, allegedly knew of a condition that posed a significant threat to the health of his players. It’s the subject of a movie starring Will Smith, Concussion, out this month. But what is chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), and what can we do to prevent it?

What Is CTE?

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a disease that occurs as the result of sustaining multiple concussions. It used to be a condition reserved for boxers, but cases are cropping up in other violent sports and even in the military. The condition progresses over years–even decades–resulting in the loss of cranial mass. Like most neurological disorders, the effect that CTE will have on the brain varies from person to person. Some may experience swelling of certain areas while others may suffer from atrophy (a condition of degeneration).

Symptoms of CTE

The common thread between reported cases of CTE is that the symptoms are debilitating. Common signs include:

  • Memory loss
  • Impulse control issues
  • Aggression
  • Depression
  • Difficulty balancing
  • Dementia

A person with CTE may dismiss these as signs of normal aging while a doctor may mistakenly begin treatment for Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, which share many of the same symptoms.

Diagnosing CTE

Unfortunately, the only way to conclusively diagnose CTE is through post-mortem examination. The condition has been diagnosed in two cases that received nation-wide media attention:

  1. Junior Seau, a NFL linebacker who committed suicide
  2. Chris Benoit, a professional wrestler who took his own life after killing his wife and son

A recent grant provided by the Brain Injury Research Institute is giving researchers an unprecedented opportunity to diagnose CTE. Scientists believe they can identify high levels of a certain protein present in living persons affected by CTE. With early diagnosis, patients may have more treatment options.

Risk Factors

The biggest risk factor for chronic traumatic encephalopathy is participation in activities that require physical contact. Since CTE is the direct result of multiple concussions, sports like football, wrestling, and boxing are the most likely culprits. If the athlete in your life loves the game, you don’t necessarily need to pull them out just yet. You can take some basic precautions to protect your athlete’s head health:

  • Avoid head contact. Encourage football players to lead with their shoulders; it’s more effective, anyway. Keep an eye out for telltale signs of concussion: headache, light sensitivity, and disorientation. Don’t allow players with a suspected concussion back on the field until a doctor clears them. Be especially mindful of linemen, running backs, and wide receivers; these positions are most likely to experience head-to-head contact.
  • Wear protective gear. Make sure helmets and other forms of head protection fit snugly, and always fasten the chin strap. Don’t allow discomfort from protective gear to keep you from taking proper precaution!

Coping with Head Injury

If you or a loved one suffered from a head injury, your mind is likely swirling with questions. You may not know how to pay for your medical bills or sustain long-term care. Facing that kind of uncertainty is a position no one should have to deal with alone and the West Virginia brain injury lawyers at Tiano O’Dell, PLLC are here to help. After all, our coaches and doctors are expected to reasonably protect us from harm. Unfortunately, negligence happens, and the victims are left to suffer the consequences.

If you’ve experienced debilitating effects related to a head injury, you may be entitled to compensation. Call upon the personal injury attorneys at our West Virginia law firm for a free case evaluation. We’ll review the specifics and determine if we can help–all at no risk to you. We’re committed to securing the best outcomes for or clients. Call our office at (304) 720-6700 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation.