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Diagnostic tool could help identify CTE

Posted on October 9, 2017 in Blog

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, is often associated with concussions among National League Football players. It is a degenerative and incurable brain disease caused by head trauma. In July, for example, researchers published autopsies of 111 former NFL players — revealing that 110 suffered from CTE. It has led to a far-reaching national discussion about the dangers of head trauma.

Currently, CTE is only diagnosable through an autopsy and is generally only looked for upon the request of the family. That means it is still unclear how many NFL players may get or currently have CTE. It is also hard to extrapolate data about NFL players to the public since hardly anyone who has not played professional football is examined for CTE.

Fortunately, the ability for doctors to diagnose CTE may be improving.

New method could allow CTE diagnosis while living

New research published on September 26 indicates strides are being made in diagnosing and understanding the degenerative brain disease. According to Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist who authored the study, a particular type of protein in the blood may be a reliable predictor of the disease. A simple blood test can reveal the presence of the protein, CCL11.

CCL11 is associated with brain inflammation. Researchers believe prolonged inflammation can lead to CTE.

Signs and symptoms of CTE

Outside of clinical tests, people who have suffered head trauma do exhibit symptoms that can lead to a diagnosis. According to the Mayo Clinic, signs of CTE include:

  • Confusion and cognitive impairment (trouble thinking)
  • Emotional problems, including depression and impulsive behavior
  • Memory loss
  • Substance abuse

CTE is a serious and potentially life-changing condition

A traumatic brain injury can occur under a variety of conditions, not just contact sports. This includes car accidents and falls. Because the brain is complex and unique, the symptoms of a severe brain injury can differ widely. While some of the symptoms of a brain injury can lessen over time, many symptoms can linger indefinitely.

If you have suffered a blow to the head, it is important not to dismiss any symptoms, including changes in mood or decision-making ability. Talk to your doctor if you or a loved one exhibits any of the symptoms above. Meanwhile, further research may lead to better treatment options for sufferers, as well as improved diagnostic tools. Until then, good doctor-patient communication and an awareness of the symptoms of CTE is the best bet for obtaining an accurate diagnosis of serious brain injury.