In recent years there has been increasing attention on concussions and brain injuries among athletes at all levels. Currently, more than 4,000 former players are suing the National Football League in federal court, alleging the league ignored and denied the link between football and brain damage. More recently, Junior Seau’s family was informed last week that Seau’s brain had tested positive for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Seau was a linebacker in the NFL for 20 years and committed suicide in May of 2011, just two years after his retirement.
Since the 1920s, CTE has been known to affect boxers. It was not discovered in football players until 2005, when researchers at Boston University confirmed 50 cases of CTE in former football players, including 33 who played in the National Football League.
CTE is common in athletes because of the repetitive brain trauma, including concussions as well as asymptomatic subconcussive hits to the head. CTE is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain. The frequent head trauma triggers progressive degeneration of the brain tissue and the build-up of an abnormal protein called tau.
Individuals with CTE may show symptoms of dementia, memory loss, aggression, confusion, and depression. These symptoms may appear within months of the trauma or many decades later.