Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has been linked to participation in contact sports such as boxing and American football. CTE results in a progressive decline of memory and cognition, as well as depression, suicidal behavior, poor impulse control, aggressiveness, parkinsonism, and, eventually, dementia. In some individuals, it is associated with motor neuron disease, referred to as chronic traumatic encephalomyelopathy, which appears clinically similar to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Results of neuropathologic research has shown that CTE may be more common in former contact sports athletes than previously believed. It is believed that repetitive brain trauma, with or possibly without symptomatic concussion, is responsible for neurodegenerative changes highlighted by accumulations of hyperphosphorylated tau and TDP-43 proteins. Given the millions of youth, high school, collegiate, and professional athletes participating in contact sports that involve repetitive brain trauma, as well as military personnel exposed to repeated brain trauma from blast and other injuries in the military, CTE represents an important public health issue. Focused and intensive study of the risk factors and in vivo diagnosis of CTE will potentially allow for methods to prevent and treat these diseases. Research also will provide policy makers with the scientific knowledge to make appropriate guidelines regarding the prevention and treatment of brain trauma in all levels of athletic involvement as well as the military theater.
Copyright © 2011 American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.