Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a condition only found in the brain during a post-mortem examination. There are no tests for it. However, it has some specific signs that manifest as it progresses, including aggression and suicidal thoughts. A build-up of the protein tau causes CTE, and it is usually associated only with individuals who have suffered multiple concussions. Professional football players and boxers are two of the more common demographics of individuals who have been diagnosed with CTE after their death.
A recent study published in "Science Translational Medicine" reports that multiple brain injuries aren't necessary for a person to have a presence of tau in the brain. It found that it is present in some patients who have a history of only a single brain injury, and the tau level remains elevated even decades later.
What does this study mean?
In the simplest terms, the study means that people can suffer a neurodegenerative condition even if they only have one head injury. Researchers hope to use this information to find out what biomarkers to look for while a person is still alive. This could lead to patients receiving a diagnosis of conditions like CTE while they are still living, so they can get help when they need it.
Tau proteins are found in people who have other conditions like dementia or Alzheimer's disease. A specific type of positron emission tomography ligand recently developed can spot these tau tangles. This testing could help doctors diagnose conditions like CTE.
Where does science go from here?
Because this study was so small, it isn't possible to draw a direct line from one brain injury to the presence of tau in the brain. More extensive studies will need to occur to prove a specific correlation.
The belief, at this point, is that injuries lead to brain cells dying even decades after the injury. From here, finding out how to help these patients is a priority. Cognitive function therapy and similar treatments might be beneficial. However, the best methods for making this happen will only become apparent as more studies are completed.
The cost of living with a brain injury is extensive. Not only do you need medical care, you might also require life care assistance. Filing a personal injury case to seek compensation from the party liable for the accident that injured you might help you to afford the financial aspects of the injury.