Muhammad Ramadan | September 4, 2023 | Brain Injuries
What Is CTE?
Approximately 2.5 million Americans sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI) each year. About 50,000 of these individuals die from their injuries, and another 80,000 sustain permanent harm. One might expect that severe head or brain damage would immediately manifest observable symptoms. However, this is not always the case.
Brain injuries like chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) can result in many of the same limitations as other forms of TBI. But unlike a severe TBI that results from a catastrophic accident, the damage caused by CTE results from many repeated, otherwise minor blows to the head.
Individuals who develop CTE may be entitled to compensation for their injuries. However, identifying the culprits responsible can be more challenging.
How CTE Develops in Individuals
The medical profession has known about CTE for under 100 years and is learning more each day about the causes and potential treatments.
What became known as CTE was first documented in 1928, when Dr. Harrison Martland studied a group of boxers and found they exhibited similar symptoms. At the time, Dr. Martland called the condition “punch drunk syndrome” because all the boxers had suffered blows to the head over the course of their sport.
While CTE is not yet fully understood, doctors and researchers do know that the condition is progressive, eventually leading to death. It is also the result of many small concussions or blows to the head over a prolonged period rather than one single traumatic event, like a car accident.
This aspect makes it particularly difficult to identify the precise cause of a person’s CTE or who might be legally responsible for causing it.
Once a person develops CTE, the condition progressively worsens and can lead to other conditions, such as dementia. CTE is considered to be fatal. While the symptoms and effects of CTE may be able to be treated and managed, there is no cure.
Common Symptoms of CTE
Like other brain injuries, CTE can result in both cognitive and behavioral symptoms. Behavioral symptoms tend to appear earlier in a person’s life, sometimes as soon as their 20s.
Conversely, cognitive impairments and effects tend to manifest later in life, in the person’s 60s and 70s. If either group of symptoms appears at times other than these, there may be another cause besides CTE.
Some of the behavioral symptoms associated with CTE are as follows:
- Inability to control impulses and making rash decisions instead
- Depression or anxiety
- Aggressiveness and hostility toward others
- Mood swings
Cognitive symptoms associated with CTE include the following:
- Trouble with short-term memory
- Lapses in judgment or poor judgment
- Problems with executive functioning, such as poor self-control and planning
Sleep disturbances are sometimes also associated with CTE. That said, this connection is not universally accepted.
Diagnosing CTE and Recovering Compensation For Injuries
There is no conclusive way to diagnose someone with CTE before death. The only way to confirm CTE is to perform an analysis of a person’s brain tissue after they have passed away.
You and your doctor may only be able to suspect you have CTE based on your activities, a documented history of repeated blows to the head, and the symptoms you are experiencing. Recovering compensation to treat your symptoms can be challenging because it is difficult to determine who precisely caused your suspected CTE. However, in situations where your activities that result in blows to the head are limited to work or a particular sport, the connection may be easier to make and compensation easier to obtain.
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