Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, is a neurodegenerative disease caused by repeated injuries to a person’s brain. Brain injuries cause nerve cells in the brain, along with other parts of the nervous system, to die. This process then causes tau, a normal brain protein, to build up so much that it becomes harmful and can cause severe and debilitating symptoms.
According to WebMD, Dr. Jesse Mez, an assistant professor of neurology at Boston University’s CTE Center, says that the Center has only seen cases of CTE in people who have experienced repetitive head impacts. And sadly, in a 2017 study by Boston University, researchers looked at the brains of 111 deceased NFL players and found signs of CTE in 110 of those players.
If you believe you may have CTE, contact a personal injury attorney who has experience with CTE cases to talk about your legal options.
Causes of CTE
The most common form of brain injury is a concussion. Concussion symptoms include nausea, blurred vision, and headaches after a head impact. These symptoms usually disappear after a short period of time. But several concussions or even small head impacts over time can potentially cause CTE later in life. This type of repeated head injury is common in people who play contact sports such as boxing or football.
Some people are more likely to suffer from CTE than others. Two particular life circumstances seem to sharply raise the chance of developing CTE:
- Kids who play contact sports before 12 years old tend to experience more severe CTE symptoms later in life. Kids who start playing contact sports after they turn 12 still sometimes have symptoms later in life, but they are usually not as severe. Even if kids who play contact sports do not experience concussions while playing that sport, they sometimes develop CTE symptoms as a result of small, repeated head impacts.
- The length of time an athlete plays contact sports is correlated to their likelihood of getting CTE. The longer the athlete’s career is, the higher their risk of developing CTE and the worse their symptoms are likely to be.
Researchers have not determined how many head impacts it takes to increase a person’s risk of CTE, especially since each person reacts to brain injuries differently. In fact, even when two people start playing football at the same age and experience a similar number of head injuries, one may end up with CTE and the other may not. Or, even if both people end up with CTE, one may have severe symptoms while the other may have mild symptoms. Researchers believe that there are likely additional factors that contribute to CTE, including a person’s genetics.
Because every person responds differently to injuries, researchers cannot identify a concrete number of head injuries that cause CTE. Thus, for some people even one concussion or a minor head injury could lead to CTE symptoms later in life.
Symptoms of CTE
Since CTE is a neurodegenerative disease, its symptoms are similar to other neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease. CTE symptoms can include:
- Flaws in judgment
- Memory loss
- Mood, behavior, and personality changes, which can include suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, and aggression
Often, symptoms do not show up until years after a person’s last head injury or impact. Currently, doctors can only diagnose CTE after a person’s death by looking at their brain during an autopsy. Researchers are still trying to come up with ways to determine if a person has CTE while they are alive, such as locating a biomarker—a physical substance in the body—that could indicate that a patient has CTE.
Thus far, only a person’s history of repeated head injuries or impacts and their symptoms can let doctors know a person may be suffering from CTE. A biomarker that identifies CTE has not been found as of early 2019. However, in 2012, researchers performed an experimental brain scan on former NFL linebacker Fred McNeill, because doctors thought he might have CTE. When McNeill died in 2015, his autopsy confirmed the results of the brain scan. Currently, CTE is not curable or reversible. However, doctors can treat some symptoms, like mood changes, in most patients.
While accidents do happen, everyone can lessen their chances of getting CTE by doing everything they can to protect their head. People who participate in contact sports should always wear helmets. And people who work in an industry where they could fall or where materials could fall onto their heads from above them should always wear a hard hat and look up frequently. While a helmet doesn’t stop all brain injuries, it does lessen impacts and could make the difference between a symptom-free life or suffering from CTE.
Retaining a CTE Attorney
While CTE is most commonly found in people who play contact sports, certain jobs in other industries can also put workers at risk of getting CTE. Jobs in the construction, logging, or tree trimming industries are some of those that put workers at high risk for CTE because of the increased risk of head impacts from falls or falling debris or equipment. Even time spent in the military can put service members and veterans at risk for CTE.
If you have CTE symptoms and have suffered head injuries or impacts in the past, an attorney who is experienced in working with those who may have this neurodegenerative disease can talk to you about your possible legal options.
Damages You Might Recover
Depending on the severity of your CTE symptoms, you may recover:
- Current and future medical expenses, including therapy that you might need
- Pain and suffering
- Current and future loss of wages
- Loss of companionship
- If you’ve lost a loved one to CTE, you may be able to recover funeral expenses and other costs
Contact a CTE Injury Attorney for More Information
If you are suffering from symptoms that could be caused by CTE, a personal injury attorney may answer additional questions and help you recover compensation for your injuries. Contact the legal team at The Law Offices of George Salinas online or call our office in San Antonio at (210) 944-8584 for a free consultation to see how we can help.