You may have heard chronic traumatic encephalopathy and its association with football players. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is linked to repeated head trauma. When you experience a blow to the head, your brain bounces off the back of the skull, which essentially rotates the brain. People may not experience any symptoms or notice any potential signs of CTE until years later. It can only be diagnosed after death during an autopsy. Then the brain changes from the head injuries are actually noticeable. When playing football, there a single tackle or even one concussion will not increase the chance of getting CTE. However, the condition does develop after a series of brain injuries, no matter how mild or severe.
People with CTE may experience executive function disorder, which is related to an inability to pay attention or focus. They might find it hard to remember instructions or manage multiple projects. Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder (ADHD) is an example of executive function disorder. However, the level of thinking might become even more strained if you have CTE. Cognitive impairment is not only a sign of CTE, but mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a linked to a similar brain condition known as Alzheimer’s disease. If you notice any cognitive thinking patterns that concern you, see your medical provider right away.
Another common symptom of CTE is short-term memory loss. Confusion, in general, is associated with brain injuries. However, since CTE takes years to develop, people may experience memory problems as well as confusion. It can also lead to signs of dementia. If you notice a loved one is experiencing memory problems, consult the doctor immediately.
This may seem like a broad symptom, but people with CTE can suddenly have impulsive or erratic behavior. Substance abuse might be a related issue as well. Not only will CTE cause people to have improper opinions or attitudes, but aggression and irritability are much more present. If you notice a sudden or gradual change in personality, especially impulsiveness and aggressive behaviors, consult a physician or nurse.
Besides aggression and irritability, depression is a symptom of CTE. Sadness is commonly associated with depression, but another personality change is the feeling of apathy. This means you feel indifferent to things or do not really care. The loss of interest is a sign of depression and, therefore, CTE. These feelings may lead to suicidal thoughts or behaviors. If you have thoughts of harming yourself or others, then seek local emergency care or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255).
Unlike cognitive impairment, motor impairment affects more than the brain muscle. This symptom of CTE can eventually cause a lack of muscle control. People with CTE might start out having weak or rigid muscles or tremors as well as a hard time balancing or walking. However, eventually, they could experience a total loss of muscle movement.
There are a plethora of visual ailments that can occur because of CTE. You might notice issues with just one eye or both. The symptoms might come and go randomly or linger. Make sure you visit an eye doctor immediately if you experience any problems like sensitivity to light, double vision, blurry or clouded sight.
While speech and language problems are common in young children learning to talk, it is also a symptom of older patients with multiple head traumas, or CTE. This sign might also be related to the loss of muscles and motor impairment in the body.
Also known as dysphagia, trouble swallowing is linked to CTE. Although this symptom can be a sign of different health problems, it takes people with dysphagia more effort and time to swallow food or drinks. It can be painful and even impossible for some people to swallow after time.
A change in the way odors are perceived, or a complete loss of the inability to smell is known as an olfactory disorder. The ability to smell, but at a reduced capacity is called hyposmia. Once pleasant smells may seem foul, or you might not be able to pick up the scent at all anymore. While these types of disorders are caused by many health ailments, trouble with the sense of smell is a symptom of CTE.
The full list of CTE symptoms is still unknown. While more research is needed, the signs appear to be similar to other brain ailments such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia. The abnormal form of the protein tau may be associated with CTE because it is a hallmark stamp of Alzheimer’s. A buildup of another protein in the brain known as beta-amyloid is also common in Alzheimer’s, but not as much in people with CTE.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.