What is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy?

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, also known as CTE, is a progressive, degenerative brain disease believed to be caused by repeated head trauma. Initial research on the disease emerged in the late 1920s, as medical professionals noted that professional boxers experienced a sharp cognitive decline with age and the boxers were said to be “punch drunk”. Research over recent decades has demonstrated that Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy is not solely restricted to professional fighters. Individuals who participate in contact sports including football, soccer, basketball and hockey; military veterans; victims of domestic abuse; and others at risk for repetitive instances of blunt trauma to the brain have an elevated chance of developing CTE.

The neuropathology underlying CTE has features that separate CTE pathology from other neurodegenerative diseases. Repeated impacts to the brain leads to the abnormal buildup of a protein called tau. Tau proteins normally serve to stabilize neurons in the brain, but in CTE these proteins undergo changes and form clumps which interfere with normal brain cell function. In CTE, the areas of the brain most affected are the frontal lobes, amygdala and hippocampus. This distribution of the abnormal tau protein in the brain distinguishes CTE from other neurodegenerative diseases of the brain. These brain areas are reduced in size and in the most severe cases, overall brain mass may be reduced by up to 50 percent.

What Causes Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)

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