Disease Caused by Repeat Brain Trauma in Athletes May Affect Memory, Mood, Behavior
New research suggests that chronic traumatic
encephalopathy (CTE), a brain disease associated with repeat brain
trauma including concussions in athletes, may affect people in two
major ways: initially affecting behavior or mood or initially
affecting memory and thinking abilities.
The study appears in the August 21, 2013, online issue of
Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of
Neurology. CTE has been found in amateur and professional athletes,
members of the military and others who experienced repeated head
injuries, including concussions and subconcussive trauma.
"This is the largest study to date of the clinical presentation
and course of CTE in autopsy-confirmed cases of the disease," said
study author Robert A. Stern, PhD, a professor of neurology and
neurosurgery at Boston University School of Medicine. "However, the
overall number of cases in the study is still small and there may
be more variations in CTE than described here."
For the study, scientists examined the brains of 36 male athletes,
ages 17 to 98, diagnosed with CTE after death, and who had no other
brain disease, such as Alzheimer's. The majority of the athletes
had played amateur or professional football, with the rest
participating in hockey, wrestling or boxing.
The participants' family members were interviewed about the
athletes' life and medical history, specifically dementia, changes
in thinking, memory, behavior, mood, motor skills or ability to
carry out daily living tasks. Researchers also reviewed the
athletes' medical records.
A total of 22 of the athletes had behavior and mood problems as
their first symptoms of CTE, while 11 had memory and thinking
problems as their first symptoms. Three of the athletes did not
show any symptoms of CTE at the time of death.
Those with behavior and mood problems experienced symptoms at a
younger age, with the first symptom appearing at an average age of
35, compared to an average age of 59 for those with memory and
Almost all people in the mood/behavior group, or 91 percent,
experienced symptoms of memory and thinking decline at some point,
but fewer in the cognition group experienced mood and behavior
symptoms throughout their disease, with 55 percent experiencing
behavior symptoms and 64 percent experiencing mood symptoms at some
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