A recent Netflix documentary about former NFL star, Aaron Hernandez has sparked talk about a somewhat mysterious disease, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). While researchers are learning more about this disease every day most of their findings are based on posthumous study.
Aaron Hernandez and the Effects of CTE
Hernandez presented a special look into the condition as his post-mortem examination showed he had a dramatically severe case for his age.
In 2015, the former New England Patriots tight end was convicted of murdering his friend and sentenced to life in prison. He later took his own life at the age of just 27.
After his death Hernandez was diagnosed with stage 3 CTE. There are four stages to this progressive illness which often affects the frontal lobe of the brain – associated with decision making, judgement, and cognition.
Who Else is Affected?
According to researchers at Boston University, CTE has been found in more than 100 former NFL players, some of which committed suicide.
Other notable football stars with post-mortem confirmed Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy include Andre Waters, Junior Seau, and Ken Stabler. Thousands of former players and estates of former players have filed suit against the NFL for concussion-related injuries received after playing.
Football players aren’t the only people susceptible to developing Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, other at-risk demographics include:
- Hockey players
- Soccer players
- Military veterans
- Victims of domestic abuse
Symptoms of CTE
When CTE is suspected, neurological exams, brain imaging, mental status testing, and a thorough medical history can be used to rule out other possible causes for the symptoms.
- Difficulty thinking (cognitive impairment)
- Impulsive behavior
- Short-term memory loss
- Difficulty planning and carrying out tasks (executive function)
- Emotional instability
- Depression or apathy
- Suicidal thoughts or behavior
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy is caused by repeated head traumas. However, it’s not likely that a few concussions will cause CTE. Most people diagnosed with CTE have suffered hundreds of head impacts over several years.