What Is CTE?
July 8, 2022 | J.L. King
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has made a lot of headlines in the past few years. CTE was blamed for cases of dementia and even acts of violence by former professional football players.
But you do not need to play professional football to develop CTE. Amateur and recreational athletes, combat troops, and ordinary people who have suffered multiple brain injuries can suffer from CTE.
Here are some facts about the causes and symptoms of CTE, along with some ways you can seek injury compensation for CTE.
Your brain controls your nervous system. It also manages your emotions, moods, actions, and behaviors.
Scientists do not know exactly how the brain performs these tasks, but they know that injuries like concussions can disrupt the structure and function of the brain.
Your brain is made of cells called neurons. Neurons have three parts. A body manages metabolism and cell activity. Dendrites receive signals from other neurons. An axon sends signals to other neurons.
The connections between neurons store memories, process information, and formulate your actions. When they get disrupted, you can experience physical, emotional, and cognitive symptoms.
Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs)
TBIs can happen in almost any accident, including ones that do not involve head trauma. Powerful forces from accelerating or decelerating can jostle the brain enough to damage it.
Your brain floats in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) inside your skull. The CSF acts as a cushion that absorbs impacts and slows the brain’s motion during an accident. But to slow the brain, the CSF must exert pressure on it.
Some types of brain injuries include:
A contusion happens when your brain hits the inside of your skull. The impact ruptures blood vessels inside your brain, causing a contusion or bruise.
The impact injures or kills brain cells. The bleeding starves other brain cells of their oxygen supply.
The brain can also swell. Swelling can squeeze blood vessels to stop the bleeding. But it can also squeeze intact blood vessels, cutting off the blood supply to more brain cells.
A contusion causes death in as many as 50% of cases. When it does not cause death, it can put the patient into a coma or cause permanent brain damage.
Concussions happen when the CSF does its job and prevents a contusion. The CSF cushions the brain from hitting the inside of the skull, but in doing so, it has to apply pressure to the brain.
This pressure causes a mild TBI. The pressure injures brain cells. In response to the injury, your body triggers an inflammatory response. The brain swells and increases in temperature.
The damaged and inflamed brain cells cause symptoms such as:
Concussions clear up without medical treatment in about two months. During that time, doctors will limit your activities to avoid second impact syndrome. This condition can happen when you suffer another concussion before recovering from a first concussion.
Causes of CTE
CTE is a progressive, degenerative brain condition. This means that CTE causes the condition of the brain to worsen continually.
CTE gets triggered by multiple TBIs. It does not result from the accumulation of physical damage to the brain. Instead, multiple brain injuries cause a chemical change in the brain.
Specifically, tau proteins in the neurons normally provide structural support inside neurons. But in patients with CTE, tau proteins stick to each other, making a tangle of threads that clog the neural pathways.
Over time, these tangles cause the brain to shrink. It will even shrink unevenly, giving the appearance of gaps or holes in the brain.
CTE does not happen from a single TBI. If you suffered a concussion in a car accident, you probably would not develop CTE.
But if you suffered multiple concussions in your life over a series of accidents, you have an increased risk of CTE. The greatest risk of CTE comes when you suffer chronic concussions due to your job in professional sports or the military.
Doctors also believe that you can develop CTE from mild brain injuries that do not get diagnosed as a concussion. Hard hits in amateur or school athletics might cause changes in the tau proteins over time.
Symptoms of CTE
CTE causes some symptoms common in degenerative brain disorders, such as:
- Difficulty planning and organizing
- Slow movement
But CTE also causes behavioral and mood changes that distinguish it from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and dementia. Some examples of the symptoms characteristic of CTE include:
- Loss of impulse control
- Emotional outbursts
- Suicidal thoughts
These symptoms can lead to violent crimes, substance abuse, and suicide.
The diagnostic criteria for CTE are the presence of the tau proteins. Even if someone has many of the symptoms of CTE, doctors cannot diagnose it until after death, when they can examine a brain sample.
But images of the brain along with behavioral, physical, and cognitive symptoms can help doctors give a preliminary CTE diagnosis.
Dealing with CTE
Unfortunately, CTE will cause the patient’s health to decline. During this time, the patient will need medical treatment, therapy, medication, and assistance with daily activities.
Some leagues have created funds to help injured participants deal with the costs of care. But in most cases, you will need substantial funds from insurance and other sources of compensation to meet these needs.
Contact a Tifton Personal Injury Lawyer for Help Recovering Compensation for CTE
Liability for CTE continues to evolve. On the one hand, many activities that lead to the TBIs that trigger CTE are often voluntary. Amateur and professional sports leagues often argue that participants voluntarily assumed the ordinary participation risks when they joined.
On the other hand, you might still have a case for injury compensation if leagues knew of the risk and actively concealed or downplayed it. You may also have a claim if the league selected inadequate safety equipment based on the risks.
For example, you may have a claim against a league that picked cheap helmets to save money even though the league knew they would not prevent TBIs.
You might also have a claim against equipment manufacturers. Equipment manufacturers design equipment to address risks and test their equipment to ensure it meets the design specifications. They also provide instructions and warnings so players and coaches can use the equipment properly.
If the equipment was defective or included inadequate warnings, you might have a claim against the manufacturer. Contact a Tifton personal injury lawyer for help with your claim.
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