By Calvin Mabry
A recent article published by CNN detailed that 99 percent of studied brains from deceased NFL players were diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, more commonly known as CTE.
A progressive degenerative brain disease, CTE is characterized by memory loss, mood swings and difficulty concentrating, symptoms similar to those of Alzheimer’s. The differentiating factor, however, are bouts of aggression, lack of impulse control and suicide.
It is believed that the only means of developing CTE is by suffering continual blows to the head. And as a relatively new disease, discovered only 15 years ago, CTE has no known cure, and can only be diagnosed by examining the brain after death.
In response to the findings, Marc Haro, MD, and Medical Director of Mission Sports Medicine, weighs in.
“I think all of us in the sports medicine world have become acutely aware of the potential risks that head injuries may play in the development of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). And while we do not yet have all the answers as to the pathophysiology of CTE, and clearly further research is needed, we are all taking steps to try and minimize the risk,” says Haro.
In fact, the experts at Mission Sports Medicine have developed a comprehensive multidisciplinary team to help evaluate and treat head injuries. This starts by screening incoming athletes prior to competition and providing athletic trainers on the sidelines who are trained to recognize these injuries. Upon suspicion of a head injury, the trainers will direct athletes to the Mission team of primary care sports medicine physicians trained in concussion management, as well as neurologists.
“Our hope is that with early detection of head injuries and a strict return to activity protocol, we can keep people active in the sports they love in a safe manner,” says Haro.
Preventative measures are also being taken by leagues, administrators and coaches, as different sporting programs are working to lessen the risk of head injury. Two examples include restrictions on headers in soccer at younger ages, as well as teaching safe tackling techniques in football.
Marc Haro, MD, is an orthopedic surgeon with Asheville Orthopaedic Associates, an affiliate of Mission Health, and Medical Director for Mission Sports Medicine.