Kenneth Goldblatt | October 20, 2018 | Personal Injury
Traumatic Brain Injuries lawyer in New York, Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Westchester, Goldblatt and Associates, would like to share this interesting brain injury article with you.
Concussions occur when the brain is shaken violently within the skull.
In football, a player’s skull is shaken violently any time they get hit. In soccer it happens any time someone heads the ball. In hockey it happens any time a player is checked or hit with a punch during a fight.
According to Dr. Robert Cantu, one of the world’s leaders in neuroscience, particularly as it relates to sports medicine, this could spell serious trouble for anyone who plays a collision sport.
“As a result of that violent shaking a number of metabolic abnormalities happen that interrupt the ability of brain cells to transmit impulses,” Cantu said. “Occasionally, the shaking is violent enough that in addition to the metabolic injury there’s actually a structural injury to the brain, and there’s tearing of nerve fibers and sometimes even nerve cells.”
That tearing is what causes Tau protein to appear where it’s not supposed to, often causing chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, to occur. CTE is the result of repeated brain trauma. It is caused both by concussive hits and sub-concussive hits, which are believed to be the primary cause of CTE. Cantu’s research has shown that just because you may have never had a concussion doesn’t mean you’re incapable of getting CTE. As Cantu puts it, “the total brain trauma is more important than the number of recognized concussions.”
In other words, the more often you hit your head, the more likely you are to suffer from CTE. For anyone who played football growing up, this can be a scary thought. Every hit to the head, big or small, could bring you one step closer and closer to diminished brain function.
Tau is a naturally occurring protein and can be good in its regular form. However, the kind of Tau found in CTE patients is hyperphosphorylated, meaning it depresses the biological activity of Tau. This kind of Tau is toxic and causes brain damage. The brain damage caused by the hyperphosphorylated Tau isn’t unique to CTE on the surface, which creates a number of problems for those trying to study the disease. CTE is so similar to Alzheimer’s disease and various forms of dementia, that diagnosing it in living patients is currently believed to be impossible by most doctors.
According to Brain, a neurology journal put out by Oxford Journals, CTE symptoms include irritability, impulse control issues, aggression, depression, short-term memory loss and heightened suicidal tendencies. As the disease advances, more severe symptoms develop including dementia and parkinsonism. In its later stages CTE is often mistaken for Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias.
The ins and outs of CTE
While there are some studies being done on possible testing procedures for living patients with perceived CTE, currently the best way to tell if someone has it is to examine their brain after they’ve died.
“You need to have them die and then study their brain with special immune stains for this Tau protein to be certain,” Cantu said. “The clinical symptoms of CTE are essentially indistinguishable from Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. The deposition of Tau is different, so neuropatholigically it’s very different, and so you can certainly distinguish CTE if you have the brain to study. But if you just have a patient to see, you’re going to have a high index of suspicion but you never can be certain.”
While there are studies out there that attempt to discredit Cantu’s findings, he wastes no time mincing words about dissenting theories. Cantu described a recent study done by Christopher Randolph, a neurology professor at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, which claims that there’s no credible data to suggest an increased risk for neurological issues from playing football at the professional level as “absurd.”
“Over the course of a season most high school kids take 1,000 to 1,500 hits,” Cantu says. “If you play four years, that’s roughly 5,000 hits. If you play in college you’re going to have another 5,000 and if you play in the pros you’re going to have God knows how many. So over the course of a career taking tens-of-thousands of sub-concussive hits, that’s a heck of a lot of brain trauma and it can probably explain why we have individuals who have CTE that never had a recognized concussion.”
The future of CTE
Since there is so much yet to be discovered about the nature of CTE, it is very difficult to diagnose or treat the disease in living patients. Most high-profile cases of CTE are discovered only in recently deceased people. That is until recently.
Earlier this month three former NFL players were diagnosed with CTE by researchers at UCLA. UCLA had diagnosed five former players with CTE last year. While the nature of the diagnosis is still up for debate, the next step for those diagnosed is treatment for their illness. That, however, may prove more difficult that getting the actual diagnosis.
As science comes closer and closer to a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease many hope the discovery of a treatment, if not a cure, for CTE is also at hand. While some people claim to have found a way to beat CTE, such as Dr. Rick Sponaugle, who claims to have successfully treated former Cleveland Browns star Bernie Kosar’s undiagnosed CTE, most doctors think the best prevention is to avoid the numerous hits to the head that occur in high school football and developmental leagues such as Pop Warner. The feeling is that prevention combined with early diagnosis may be the best way to treat a completely avoidable disease.
Traumatic brain injury can have long lasting consequences for the victim in extensive medical bills and post treatment. To learn more about Traumatic Brain Injury, contact the New York brain injury lawyers at Goldblatt and Associates to schedule a free consultation. We serve accident victims in New York including New York City, Bronx, Brooklyn, Westchester and Putnam Counties, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo. We offer a free consultation, and receive no fee unless we are successful. Call 1-800-567-9888 today.