What is CTE?

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive neurodegenerative condition of the brain, resulting from concussions and repeated sub-concussions to the head, which typically does not appear until years after the sustained injuries and worsens over time.

CTE was first identified in American football players, further cases of CTE have been diagnosed clinically in football, rugby union, rugby league and Australian Rules Football. Most recently, CTE has been diagnosed in 300 former rugby players. The medical and sporting worlds recognise the increasing number of contact sports players developing CTE.

What are the symptoms of CTE?

Typically, CTE occurs in players in their 30s-50s. Initial symptoms are of mild forgetfulness, low mood, quick to anger and slowing of thought process.

The individual then develops physical and cognitive symptoms, such as memory problems, tremors, slurred speech, and a gradual decline in thinking ability, with confusion, aggression, depression and changes in personality, leading to dementia. These symptoms can become debilitating and life-changing for those affected and those around them.

Symptoms of cognitive decline and subtle changes in behaviour can be very non-specific, especially in the early days of CTE.

What causes CTE?

The progressive cognitive and behavioural symptoms in CTE are the result of a complex, chronic inflammatory process, which leads to destruction of the normal connections between the brain cells and death of the brain cells.

With repetitive impacts to the head, the most significant injury occurs to the tiny blood vessels in the brain. This results in damage to the ‘blood brain’ barrier, a structure designed to protect the brain.

When this structure is damaged by repetitive trauma, an abnormal ‘immune” mediated inflammatory response is triggered with the production of neurochemicals. The neurochemicals and inflammatory response should be protective.

However, when the brain is subjected to repetitive impacts and before the protective neurochemicals and inflammatory changes from the initial brain injury have had time to return to normal, the subsequent, repetitive head injuries can then result in an abnormally exaggerated, further production of neurochemicals and exaggerated inflammatory response. Instead of being protective, this is harmful to the brain. The response now damages the brain tissue and eventually leads to the irreversible death of brain cells.

Over time, this abnormal inflammatory pathway which is triggered, repeatedly, by frequent head injury in contact sports eventually leads to changes in a brain protein called tau.

The tau protein which is found within cognitive brain cells normally stabilises these brain cells to ensure they work efficiently and communicate effectively with all the other cognitive brain cells, so an individual can think and behave normally.

When the tau protein becomes damaged, it can no longer stabilise the brain cells and the brain cells lose their ability to function efficiently and effectively.

Furthermore, the tau protein starts to replicate itself inside the brain cells and eventually the tau completely fills the brain cells so they burst and die. Unfortunately, these brain cells cannot regenerate. The abnormal tau protein also develops the ability to “jump” from one brain cell to the next; once the abnormal tau protein enters a new brain cell, the process starts again, resulting in the death of that brain cell.

As the tau protein spreads around the brain affecting and killing more and more brain cells, needed for thinking and to control our emotions and behaviour, the symptoms of cognitive impairment and changes in behaviour become increasingly apparent. The resulting symptoms result in CTE.

Who is Most Impacted?

CTE is most commonly found in athletes, war veterans and individuals who have suffered repetitive brain traumas.

What Treatment is Available?

At Recognition Health, under an early access drug licence, a potential treatment to halt or slow progression of CTE symptoms is underway.

CTE FAQs

Here you can find answers to commonly asked questions surrounding CTE.

Symptoms of cognitive decline and subtle changes in behaviour can be very non-specific, especially in the early days of CTE.

CTE is a progressive neurodegenerative disease.

High quality clinical and diagnostic assessments can offer a reasonably certain clinical probability of a likely CTE diagnosis, and only very sophisticated MRI imaging that can demonstrate objective evidence of CTE.

CTE is a progressive neurodegenerative disease. CTE leads to dementia, related physical and cognitive symptoms such as memory problems. These symptoms become debilitating and life-changing for those affected and those around them.

CTE has been diagnosed, clinically, in soccer, rugby union, rugby league and Australian Rules Football.

CTE is a progressive neurodegenerative disease. CTE will get worse over time and become life-changing for those affected, their family and friends.

Summary

Rotational brain injury increases your risk of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).

CTE is a progressive neurodegenerative disease caused by repetitive impacts to the brain leading to dementia, life-changing physical and cognitive symptoms for those affected, their family and friends.