Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a deterioration of the brain. It is caused by the buildup of a protein called tau. The brain damage caused by CTE can lead to severe mental and physical disabilities. The condition gets worse over time.
Researchers have a found a link between repetitive head injuries and CTE. The head injury may involve:
Over time, these injuries can lead to abnormal groups of tau proteins. These proteins can create tangled masses in the brain. The tangles can block normal brain function. Similar tangles are seen in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Having a history of head injuries puts you at risk for CTE later in life. People who may be at the highest risk include those who:
The symptoms may develop many years after the head injuries.
Your doctor will:
To gain more information about your brain and to rule out other conditions, your doctor may order tests, such as:
CT Scan of the Head
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At the present time, the only way to clearly diagnose CTE is for a doctor to examine the brain after a person has died. This is how researchers are learning more about CTE.
Treatment for CTE is an area that is being studied. Depending on your symptoms, though, your doctor may recommend:
You may be referred to a doctor who specializes in head injuries.
When playing sports, you can reduce your risk of CTE by:
Other steps that you can take to reduce head injuries off the field include:
Boston University Center for Traumatic Brain Injury
Sports Legacy Institute
Brain Injury Association of Alberta
Ontario Brain Injury Association
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NINDS Encephalopathy information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.n.... Updated November 9, 2010. Accessed May 29, 2012.
Prevention: What Can I do to Help Prevent Concussion and other forms of TBI? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/prevention.html. Updated May 16, 2012. Accessed May 29, 2012.
Traumatic brain injury: hope through research. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/tbi/detail_tbi.htm#193693218. Updated May 14, 2012. Accessed May 29, 2012.
What is CTE? Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy website. Available at: http://www.bu.edu/cste/about/what-is-cte/. Accessed May 29, 2012.
Last reviewed August 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 8/30/2013