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Then And Now : Chemistry & Society

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

by Jasmine Gillie, Cece Kucan, and Makayla Marcus

What is CTE?
CTE stands for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy which is a condition of
brain damage which can persist over periods of years or even decades. When
somebody has CTE, their brain loses mass over time and the condition gradually
gets worse. Parts of the brain are especially likely to waste away, whereas
others are more likely to enlarge. With the degeneration of cells in the brain,
some areas experience a mass gathering of t
au protein,
which serves as a
substance that stabilizes cellular structure in neurons, but may also become
defective and cause interference with the neurons functions.
CTE is caused by multiple (both symptomatic and asymptomatic)
concussions and/or traumatic brain injuries, such as seizures. CTE is most
commonly found with athletes and members of the military, which isnt
coincidental since these people are often put in rough situations and are left
untreated for brain injuries.
How can we fix it?
There is no current treatment or cure for CTE, but it can be prevented.
Since CTE is associated with concussions and brain trauma, all thats needed to
do is prohibit and treat those smaller injuries. Preventing trauma, especially
in sports, can be done by encouraging the use of helmets, other safety
precautions, and most simply, by giving people with concussions or brain
trauma the time necessary to recover.
It seems like a fairly easy solution and there is no reason for CTE to be as
big of an issue as it is. Unfortunately, as simple as resolving the issue should be,
in sports heavy states, cities, and even families, the issue of CTE is practically

Imagine an athlete, whether they are in football, hockey, wrestling, any

athlete at all. Now imagine that the athlete has a concussion. Shocking, right?
Concussions are anything but uncommon in sports, which results in coaches,
especially, telling these athletes to walk it off and get back into games. What
they arent realizing is how much harm those concussions can do once they all
come together. An extra hour or two of seeing your favorite athlete is not worth
the result of a progressive decline of memory and cognition, as well as
depression, suicidal behavior, impulsiveness, aggressiveness, parkinsonism,
apathy, irritability, and, eventually, dementia; all of which come with CTE.
When coaches force athletes to get back in games after injuries, the risk
of getting CTE increases multitudinously. Often, people dont even know what
CTE is and many arent diagnosed until they die from it, at as young as twenty
five years old. CTE is even more concerning to individuals because it is so
unrecognized, so common, and so dangerous. The only way to stop the CTE
epidemic is for people to be aware that is a risk. Coaches especially, from the
NFL to small local teams need to be encouraged to give their players the time
they need to recover before CTE can develop. In the end, it doesnt matter who
won which game, all that matters is if the athletes are capable of playing
another one.
How is this affecting our community?
Junior Seau, a professional football player in the NFL, shot himself in the
chest in May of 2012. An autopsy proved that he was suffering from CTE causing
his erratic behavior and depression for many years. Seau was just one of
dozens of cases in the NFL and there are still so many people who dont know of
Now, you may be wondering, how does this affect me? The fact is, CTE
doesnt only happen with famous people. It can happen to anyone, whether
theyre a sibling or a friend, they can develop CTE and have their lives ended
before they turn thirty. Its shocking that CTE is such an unrecognized disease
when it can be so harmful to so many people.
While CTE is unrecognizable until death, there are many signs that point
to it. You can assume that someone has this disorder if they meet certain
criteria. A person very close to me meets most, if not all of the criteria.
Makaylas brother has experienced difficulty thinking, impulsive behavior,
depression, short-term memory loss, difficulty planning and carrying out tasks

(executive function), and emotional instability. This are all signs of CTE. When he
was six years old, he had his first concussion. He was playing with his cousins
when they wrapped themselves up in sleeping bags and slid down the stairs. The
stairs didnt have railings, so he fell off and landed on his head. Several years
later, he was inner tubing with his dad and fell off the slope and onto concrete.
He needed to be life flighted to Childrens hospital and was passed out for a very
long time. When he was older he joined the football team, so he received
numerous, mild head injuries that all ultimately led up to the conclusion that he
is suffering from CTE.

Works Cited:



"What Is CTE?"
What Is CTE?
BIRI Brain Injury Institute, n.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2016.
"Long-term Consequences of Repetitive Brain Trauma: Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy."
National Center for Biotechnology Information
. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 3 Oct. 2011.
Web. 21 Jan. 2016.
Gavett, Brandon E., Robert A. Stern, and Ann C. McKee. "Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy: A
Potential Late Effect of Sport-Related Concussive and Subconcussive Head Trauma."
Clinics in
Sports Medicine
. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 30 Jan. 2011. Web. 21 Jan. 2016.
"John Grimsley CTE Center | Boston University."
CTE Center RSS
. BU CTE Center, n.d. Web. 21 Jan.
. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2016.
Brady, Erik, and Gary Mihoces Sports. "Seau Brain Disease Sends Alarms among Players, Critics."
USA Today
. Gannett, 10 Jan. 2013. Web. 21 Jan. 2016.
"Seau's Suicide Helped To Make Concussions In Football A National Issue."
. NPR, 22 Dec. 2015.
Web. 21 Jan. 2016.