Dr. Robert A. Stern, a professor of neurology and neurosurgery at Boston University School of Medicine, is the first to reveal the dual nature of chronic traumatic encephalopathy to athletes in the Aug. 21, 2013, issue of the journal Neurology.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a brain disorder most frequently observed in athletes who have suffered multiple concussions.
The problems associated with CTE in athletes were a 61 percent change in mood and behavior and a 31 percent loss of memory and thinking ability. The mood change aspect of the disorder was manifested at an average age of 35. The loss of memory and thinking began at an average age of 59. The majority of the athletes had played amateur or professional football, with the rest participating in hockey, wrestling or boxing.
The results were based on autopsy information collected from 36 former athletes that ranged in age from 17 to 98 years old. Each former athlete’s complete medical history was examined for complications that would skew the results including dementia and Alzheimer’s. No direct correlation with any other disease state was found that could produce the mood or memory problems was found.
Sixty-four percent of the former athletes that experienced mood disorders were described as “out of control” and “explosively violent” by their family members.
This is the largest post mortem study of the effects of repeated brain trauma on athletes. The findings can be extended to consider similar effects on people in the military, police persons, fire fighters, and cheer leaders who suffer a similar number of repeated brain trauma events.