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10 AM Group 2: Is CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) a deadly disease?

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Kaitlin Hampton Adrian Montes

Jake Meisen

Is CTE a Incurable Deadly Disease?

The answer is yes, CTE is an incurable deadly disease.

CTE is scientifically known as "Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy". According to the CTE Center at Boston University, it is described as, "the progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma." Due to the fact that it is a degenerative disease of the brain, and there is no cure, it takes years of your life away, making it a deadly disease.

Origin and Prevalence:

On the web today, there are dozens of sources for people to find reliable information on CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy). These can range from true scientific websites, to fake news sources sharing their opinions on another professional athlete killing themselves because, they've "gone mad" due to CTE. This disease is actually a lot more complex than people may think, with their allegations of either being fake, or assuming it automatically makes you a psychopath. The science behind CTE on sites like concussionfoundation.org and the Boston University CTE Center shows that this is truly a devastating disease with no cure besides completely avoiding activities that involve blunt force trauma to the head. This disease does have many side effects that can result in the assumptions of someone going clinically insane, such as memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, anxiety, suicidality, parkinsonism, and progressive dementia.

Bennet Omalu was the first person to discover CTE, in September, 2002. Omalu was observing the brain of Mike Webster, a former NFL player who died at the age of 50 to a heart attack. When looking at the brain, Omalu found clumps of tau protein which when accumulated, is destructive on the brain. Once Omalu confirmed his findings with the University of Pittsburgh, he then submitted a paper to the National Football League as a warning, but the multi-billion dollar NFL corporation was in denial of the findings. Bennet Omalu was later portrayed by Will Smith in the major motion picture, Concussion. To this day the NFL is still in denial of the problem and have done nothing to help stop it.

Issues and Analysis:

Fred McNeill, one of the best players in Minnesota history, died from CTE on the 3rd of November, 2015, only making him 63 years old. McNeill was a 17th overall selection in the 1947 NFL draft from the University of California Los Angeles. McNeill was a star linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings for 12 seasons. CTE in the NFL: The Tragedy of Fred McNeill states that McNeill was the first NFL player to be tested alive for CTE. Bennet Omalu approached the McNeills with a technology called TauMark. Omalu evaluated his brain before and after his death and decided his death was indeed due to CTE. His family announced McNeill lost his memory, and had terrible mood swings causing him to become aggressive. Stated by his wife, "Fred did everything. He played ball, went to law school, prepared for life after football. We had the kids. It was a good life, and then it changed." All these side effects of CTE caused McNeill to lose multiple jobs, and relationships. His journey with CTE soon hospitalized him causing him to die within 24 hours of being in the hospital. .Living brain scans of five former NFL players, including Fred McNeill.

(Shown above are living brain scans of five former NFL players, including Fred McNeill.)

CTE is the process of a buildup of the abnormal protein called Tau. This same protein is also found in Alzheimer's patients, and causes the breakdown of brain tissue. The main cause of CTE is said to be trauma to the brain, which is why the NFL has had so many reported cases in the past few years. The "common symptoms of CTE are memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, suicidality, parkinsonism, and eventually progressive dementia."

The reason CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) is a deadly disease is because once you're diagnosed with it, there is no cure. Similar to Alzheimer's disease, the brain tissue progresses to wear down overtime, which is when you start to see the side effects listed above. As of right now, the only known way of diagnosing CTE is with a donated brain post-mortem. There is no way to fully test a living brain for CTE which is why it is very difficult to find a cure. Individual side effects of CTE such as aggression, depression, anxiety, suicidality, parkinsonism, and eventually progressive dementia can be treated as separate issues but only temporarily. These can also lead to further complications physically, mentally and even have a negative effect in someone's personal life.

It is no longer a question about "Is CTE a deadly disease", but it is now a question of, how did this disease become this terrible condition. The NFL has been home to CTE victims for as long as the sport has been around. With updated gear to provide safety to the players, how could the number of CTE cases be going up? It is actually fairly simple, back when football started they were given a piece of leather to protect their heads, not exactly ideal for tackling someone head to head. With the gear that lacked safety, it was rare to see the "big hits" you see today, because the players saw it as dangerous to throw their whole body head first into another moving person. As time changed, so did the advancement of the technology to the players gear. Shoulder pads, extra padded helmets, they began to look like robots with all the excess padding, which should be a good thing, right? Unfortunately no, all of the gear that makes a player feel safe, also makes them feel indestructible, making them feel like they can throw their whole body at someone and be fine because they have pads. If you watched the 52nd Super Bowl, you saw a hit like this on Patriots wide receiver, Brandin Cooks. The blow knocked him unconscious and sent him to a hospital. These plays are the inevitable. Players will continue to suffer from contact sports and the numbers in such games show no sign of slowing down.

The only true way to avoid this life threatening disease, is by completely avoiding blunt force trauma to the head. CTE is not only found in football players, this disease is found in boxers, soccer players, ice hockey, military veterans and even domestic abuse victims. This disease does not shy away from any area in which the head is repeatedly struck or even struck a single time but with such force to do permanent damage. While having this disease you may not die immediately. Life will go on with smaller cases of CTE but you notice complications arising in your daily life as if you had a perinanat concussion. Average life expectancy is usually the same for those smaller cases of CTE, but the population with a larger scale of the disease live roughly 20 years less than the average American. This statistic does take into account all heavily known cases and deaths such as homicide, suicide, accidental deaths and simply natural causes with those suffering from CTE.

See the source image

(With images from the CTE center from Boston University, you can clearly see the differences between a healthy brain, and one that has been diagnosed with CTE. Breakdown, shrinkage, and discoloration occurs throughout the entire brain.)

Summary:

CTE is a deadly, incurable, degenerative disease of the brain. First discovered by Bennet Omalu, the disease that causes aggression, memory loss, impaired judgement, confusion, depression, and dementia is rising in numbers, and deadly cases across the United States. It is deadly because there is no cure, the only thing doctors can do is attempt to solve a few problems at a time (impaired judgement, aggression, etc…) The disease eats away at the brain with the increase clumping of Tau protein. Worst of all the leading industry that produces patients who have CTE, (the NFL) is doing nothing to help solve the problem, instead they turn away from the problem because it is bad for business.

Works Cited:

What is CTE? (2017, August 30). Retrieved February 07, 2018, from https://concussionfoundation.org/CTE-resources/what-is-CTE

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy Disease Reference Guide. (n.d.). Retrieved February 07, 2018, from https://www.drugs.com/mcd/chronic-traumatic-encephalopathy

Mohney, G. (n.d.). Ex-NFL Player, 25, With CTE Highlights How Dangerous Disease Can Develop Early. Retrieved February 07, 2018, from http://abcnews.go.com/Health/nfl-player-25-cte-highlights-dangerous-disease-develop/story?id=34497663

Frequently Asked Questions about CTE. (n.d.). Retrieved February 07, 2018, from http://www.bu.edu/cte/about/frequently-asked-questions/

Ott, T. (2016, December 19). Bennet Omalu. Retrieved February 07, 2018, from https://www.biography.com/people/bennet-omalu-122315.

Kounang, N. (2016, February 05). CTE in the NFL: The tragedy of Fred McNeill. Retrieved February 10, 2018, from https://www.cnn.com/2016/02/04/health/fred-mcneill-cte-football-player/index.html


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