Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive, degenerative disease of the brain, and can only be diagnosed after an individual's death. People with a history of multiple concussions and head injuries, such as boxers and professional football players, are known to be susceptible to CTE. Individuals suffering from CTE display symptoms of:
- Memory loss
Concussions and CTE
The primary physical manifestations of CTE include reduced brain size, with an atrophy of the frontal and temporal cortexes and the medial temporal lobe. Some cases of CTE mimic Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), popularly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. As of now, the risk factors for CTE remain unknown, but it appears in some former athletes involved in high-contact sports, such as football, ice hockey, and boxing.
CTE was originally observed in the 1930s among former boxers, referred to a "punch-drunk." Between 2008 and 2010, twelve former NFL players donated their brains for postmortem evaluation, and each one showed evidence for CTE. Former football stars all had CTE:
- Mike Webster
- Terry Long
- Andre Walters
- Justin Strelczyk
- Tom McHale
By December 2012, some thirty-three former NFL players were diagnosed with postmortem chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Some former NFL players have committed suicide but left their brains were also diagnosed with varying stages of CTE.
CTE and the Nervous System
There are a multitude of diseases which can potentially afflict an individuals nervous system. These diseases commonly include, but are certainly not limited to Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, Alzheimer's disease, systemic neuropsychiatric lupus (SLE), Amyptrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease), Tourette syndrome, Bernard-Horner Syndrome, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP), and encephalopathy.
There are a number of diagnostic and testing procedures utilized when examining a patient for neurological disorders. These include, but are not limited to, neuropathology to include DNA testing, structural imaging procedures such as computed tomography (CT)and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and functional imaging such as positron emission tomography (PET) and single photon emission tomography. There are also a number of psychological and neuropsychological tests administered to patients to verify the presence of nervous system disorders by assessing cognitive and neurological function including, but not limited to, Trail Making A-B and Rey-Osterrieth complex figure-B reproduction assessments, Corsi block tests and digit span assessment, Rey Auditory Verbal Learning tests, Raven's Colored Progressive Matrices, and semantic and phonemic verbal fluency tests.
Unfortunately, treatment options for most nervous system disorders are limited, as most neurological disorders are chronic and progressive. Most treatments for neurological disorders which are progressive include, but are not limited to dopamine substitutes such as L-dihydroxyphylalanine (L-dopa), tranquilizers to combat sleep reversal such as zopliclone, zolpidem, or clonazepam, anti-depressants such as fluoxetine, amitriptyline, or sertraline, and anti-psychotics to combat dementia such as promazine, haloperidol, droperidol, or sulpiride. As the vast majority of major nervous system disorders are either congenital or genetic in nature, preventative measures against the development of major nervous system disorders remain, largely, a mystery. However, modern scientific techniques such as gene mapping and stem cell research offer significant hope that, in the future, preventative measures will exist for the combat of nervous system diseases and disorders.