Potential Future Treatment for CTE and Concussions
By: Anthony Russo
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a severe disease that affects a number of football player’s health throughout their lives.
It remains an untreatable disease to the brain, typically found in former athletes that have suffered multiple concussions and/or a series of blows to the head.
Under CTE, symptoms victims usually face include, but are not limited to, memory loss, depression, difficulty focusing, weakness in vision, and difficulty in speaking, as well as suicidal thoughts.
The most recent and prominent case involves former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Hernandez hung himself in his jail cell at just 27- years-old last April, and his autopsy revealed he suffered from CTE.
According to his lawyer, Hernandez, who was in stage 3 of CTE, had “the most severe case they had ever seen in someone of Aaron’s age.”
Despite this, Hernandez has only dealt with one documented concussion, as per the Boston Globe.
CTE, according to a study from the medical journal Jama, was found in 99% former NFL players brains based on autopsies.
In a recent study, 110 out of 111 former NFL players had traces of CTE, including 3 out of the former 14 high school football players and 48 of the 53 former college football players.
Hernandez’s case is rare considering age, especially with the fact he suffered just one concussion throughout his entire football career. His example, and the results of the study, show the risks teenage football player’s face when it comes to developing CTE at some point in their lives.
Suffering multiple concussions will increase the likelihood of CTE, but it’s also possible that continuous blows to the head such as “helmet to helmet” hits could be just as fatal as well.
Former Boston Bruins center Marc Savard, who was forced to step away from hockey at just 33 years of age in 2011, still deals with post-concussion syndrome. Savard, unlike Hernandez, suffered six concussions throughout his hockey career, two coming within the last year of his NHL playing career.
Savard told Stan Grossfeld of the Boston Globe in November of 2016 that he plans on donating his brain to science for extensive research on CTE and concussions.
Typically CTE is found initially through an autopsy, but a brain scan performed by Dr. Bennet Omalu in 2012 on former Minnesota Vikings linebacker Fred Mcneill discovered CTE in his brain.
This is significant, as Mcneill was still alive for the procedure.
This case study on Mcneill was reported by the journal of Neurosurgery on November 10, but CTE caused Mcneills death in 2015 before it was able to be confirmed. Omalu first speculated in 2012 that he found CTE through a brain scan due to abnormal amounts of protein called “tau”, which is typically found in results with CTE.
Considering this was the first discovery of CTE in a live human after 5 years of study, perhaps CTE will be treatable.Other symptoms that come with CTE are anxiety and depression, which are some mental health issues that are treatable.
The risks of CTE and concussions should be made notable to teenagers who plan on having football careers, starting with high school football. Though the risks of CTE in tackle football in high school are lower due to the less experienced tacklers and head hits, the long term effects should be well explained to them regarding CTE and concussions.
Avoiding CTE or concussions through a lengthy football career may be impossible, but perhaps doctors and scientists will find treatments for CTE considering their recent findings with Mcneill.