Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is making headlines across the country. Sports pages are full of wins and losses and player statistics, but they are not reporting on the devastating effects of this disease on those players and their families. Active research is providing hope for CTE sufferers, but we at Crandall & Pera Law believe the cause needs greater attention.
What is CTE?
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a brain disease, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The problem with these types of brain diseases is that they are undetectable until the symptoms progress to a point where daily function is impaired. At this point, doctors can make a best guess diagnosis, but Alzheimer’s and CTE can only be confirmed by a brain biopsy after death.
CTE is caused by repeated traumas to the brain. Minor impacts over time contribute to a gradual and increasing degeneration of brain tissue. The degeneration is accompanied by a build up of a protein called “tau.” Tau proteins exist in the brain to stabilize the connections between neurons; in a person with CTE, tau proteins are “tangled” and no longer able to stabilize the connections. In response, the body produces more protein to “fix” the damage. CTE is thus evidenced by a high level of tau protein in brain fluid.
How research is helping
Medical Daily reports that researchers are exploiting the fact that human brain tissue and skin tissue originate from the same type of tissue in developing embryos. With this knowledge, Dr. Ildefonso Rodriguez-Leyva of Central Hospital in Mexico put a team together to develop a skin test for tau protein levels.
The research was aimed at developing a single test to identify Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, but the results could have implications for CTE sufferers as well. The study found that those suffering neurodegenerative disorders had tau protein levels as much as “...7 times higher than healthy participants.” This is exciting news, as a conclusive test would enable doctors to start treatment earlier, potentially averting the more devastating effects of these degenerative diseases.
Study author Dr. Rodriguez-Leyva said in a press release, “More research is needed to confirm these results, but the findings are exciting because we could potentially begin to use skin biopsies from living patients to study and learn more about these diseases... This procedure could be used to study not only Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, but also other neurodegenerative diseases.”
In the meantime, researchers around the world are continuing the effort to understand and cure neurodegenerative disorders. The CTE Center at Boston University continuously examines the efficacy of treatment protocols, and offers the general public opportunities to volunteer their time or money to benefit the sufferers of CTE.
Research is progressing in a number of exciting ways, but the only thing we know for certain is that CTE is real and that the proximate cause is repeated trauma. The only way to avoid the condition is to prevent the circumstances that cause it. Contact sports, like football, are proven to result in CTE 96% of the time. It is a virtual guarantee that players will be affected to a greater or lesser degree.
Parents should consider the potential risks involved when deciding whether to allow their children to participate in contact sports that put their child at high risk of developing CTE later in life. There is nothing wrong with saying “no” when the future health of your child’s brain is at stake.
Choose the future. Choose your children.