CTE and Athletes: What is the Link?
How data should be interpreted no matter which stance you take
The degenerative brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has been a hot topic in the sports world, especially in light of the NFL recently admitting to the link between football and the disease. The topic even spawned the critically claimed movie, Concussion, starring Will Smith.
Although plenty of studies have pointed to the link between CTE and contact sports such as football, hockey and boxing, there are studies that have been published that suggest otherwise. The debate is something that has caught the attention of Dr. Chris Giza, a professor of pediatric neurology at UCLA. Giza commented on the topic in a recent article on Yahoo! Sports. The article focuses on Todd Ewen, a former NHL enforcer who took his own life after being concerned about CTE.
This was of special interest to me as I am currently treating a patient struggling with symptoms similar to CTE —debilitating neurocognitive and emotional symptoms with the additional anxiety that its CTE. The threat of suicide is very real as my 32-year-old patient navigates memory loss, hair-trigger aggressive reactions, depression and cognitive confusion.
Many of the current treatment issues will be addressed by my Boston Children’s Hospital Sports Medicine colleagues at the upcoming Sports Concussion, Traumatic Brain and Spine Injury Conference in Boston.
“I get very worried when patients come to me and they’re having an emotional problem and rather than thinking it’s treatable, they think it’s the beginning of CTE,” says Giza.
“The way the [CTE] story is being presented to the public can cause additional fear,” he continued. Giza stresses the importance of carefully analyzing all of the data and research findings before jumping to a conclusion regarding CTE and its effect on the brain in athletes.
The topic is undoubtedly an important one, one that is directly tied to what we offer at Amplifying Performance Consulting, LLC. Our staff continues to learn every day about how our patients are potentially affected by CTE and what we can do to help them after a diagnosis is confirmed. We also strive to distinguish CTE from post-concussion syndrome (PCS). The media hype from CTE can cause unnecessary anxiety amongst patients recovering from PCS which has a much greater probability of full recovery and full return to play.
The 13th annual Sports Concussion, Traumatic Brain and Spine Injury Conference is May 19 and 20 Harvard Medical School in Boston. We’re looking forward to learning more about the ever-evolving subject of CTE and other current topics in sports medicine.
Dr. Sharon Chirban, Clinical Sport Psychologist
Founder of Amplifying Performance Consulting, LLC