The Science of CTE

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy has received a great deal of attention in sports media lately due to this condition predominating in athletes. Television news, magazines, and newspapers have brought public awareness of the fact that repeated head injuries can lead to a neurological syndrome, termed CTE.

History of CTE

Nearly 100 years ago, a neuropsychiatric syndrome closely related to CTE in boxers was termed ‘dementia puglistica’ and commonly referred to as being “punchdrunk”, “goofy”, or “slug-nutty”. In 2005, the term ‘chronic traumatic encephalopathy’, or CTE, was coined by the pathologist, Dr. Bennet Omalu, and associated with neurobehavioral changes in American football players, although CTE has been found in athletes participating in numerous sports such as soccer, lacrosse, hockey, wrestling, baseball, martial arts, and BMX biking, as well as in cases of head banging and a circus clown.

What is CTE?

CTE is identified as a proteinopathy that consists of predominantly immunoreactive tau, although the proteins amyloid-beta and TDP-43 have been noted as well. As a noted tauopathy, CTE is histopathologically identified by abnormal hyperphosphorylated widespread tau and neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) in the neocortex, cerebral sulci and temporal cortex. Normally, tau is involved in transportation of nutrients throughout neurons. Cases of CTE typically occur in people between the ages of 30-65 years-old, although younger cases have been documented.  It is generally slowly progressive with symptoms arising 8-30 years following sports activity or injury.

What are the symptoms?

Signs and symptoms are divided into primarily four categories: behavioral, cognitive, mood, and motor.  They include explosivity, impulsiveness, aggression, short fuse, rage, aggression, social isolation, inappropriate speech, personality changes, OCD, fatigue, loss of interest, irritability, mood swings, memory impairment, impaired attention and concentration, muscle weakness, muscle rigidity, and muscle spasms.

CTE has been linked to receiving several concussions or mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and/or repeated sub-concussive hits. Although the exact mechanism of how the tau protein exerts its pathogenicity is undetermined, many other triggers have been implicated such as pesticides/insecticides, herbicides (glyphosate),  solvents, chemicals (formaldehyde), heavy metals, GMOs, artificial preservatives & additives, and microbes/pathogens.

The science of CTE is complex and understood by few. If you have any questions or want to know more, feel free to contact us.