Saturday, January 26, 2013

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in Athletes

With the increasing awareness of head injuries in sports, athletes are starting to see devastating long-term effects on the human brain. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes (and others) with a history of repetitive brain trauma, including symptomatic concussions as well as asymptomatic sub-concussive hits to the head (J Neuropathol Exp Neurol, 68(7): 709–735). Notable athletes who have suffered from CTE include football players, Dave Duerson and Junior Seau; both men committed suicide and left notes requesting that their brains be analyzed for CTE. The autopsy results for both of these athletes indicated that they indeed suffered from CTE. At least a dozen other former NFL football players have suffered from CTE. 

What is the sport industry doing to help research and prevent CTE? Since Seau’s death in 2012, the NFL has teamed with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Washington and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to further research this brain disease as well as develop methods of prevention. The NFL has since increased fines on athletes for using helmet-to-helmet hits against other players and has worked to increase the effectiveness of the athlete’s equipment. Will research and safety development prevent CTE? Possibly, but without knowledge, understanding, and the implementation of increased methods of prevention, athletes in collision sports may continue to be at risk for CTE. 


  1. CTE is an interesting and timely topic. Check out the article I wrote in the summer of 2011 --- It's Time to KO Concussions for more information on CTE.

  2. Football is a violent sport played by violent men. The litigation’s from former NFL football players has raised the attention of NFL commissioners and doctors in implementing research and modifying NFL rules and equipment to help protect athletes. With advances in medical study over CTE a better understanding and awareness of the causes and symptoms of this degenerative disease has lead players to think they should receive financial compensation. Every athlete knows what they are getting into when they began playing the sport. As frustrating as it is to see enormous fines handed out for contact to the head it is the only way to effectively raise awareness in the athletes to avoid these collisions. It has changed the game, but the game has changed enormously over the decades, not only the rules and equipment but the large salaries and benefits that these athletes are getting every year. There is even talk about taking out special teams from the game, the line needs to be drawn somewhere. Great topic.