Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is commonly found in athletes who have sustained multiple brain injuries, such as concussions. The repeated trauma “triggers progressive degeneration of the brain tissue, including the build-up of an abnormal protein called tau,” according to Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encelphalopathy. This build-up can cause changes in the brain resulting in symptoms of memory loss, lack of reasonable judgment, depression and more. Often, progressive dementia develops in conjunction with the condition. The development of the condition has been studied for years and now, in a new study, a group of researchers found that the condition typically develops in one of two ways: sooner with marked behavioral changes, or later in life, with impaired memory and thinking skills.
In the study, which was published in the latest edition of Neurology, researchers spoke with relatives of 36 men who had died from CTE and discovered that most of them followed the development pattern, according to Reuters. They also reviewed the available medical records of the male former athletes. Although three of the men displayed no symptoms of mood or memory disorders when they died, two-thirds of the men displayed behavioral changes in their 30s and the remaining 11 men developed impaired thinking skills and memory loss in their late 50s.
The data derived from this study will hopefully help scientists better understand how CTE may develop in former athletes or other individuals who have experienced a great amount of head trauma. One of the researchers is currently testing other former football players and non-contact athletes with the goal of developing objective measures of CTE and ways to detect the disease throughout life.