What to Know About CTE Brain Injuries

By Brain Injury Law of Seattle

chronic traumatic encephalopathy


Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy CTE is a brain disorder that has recently gained extensive attention due to its association with head injuries. The condition is characterized by the brain’s decline in nerve cells, commonly associated with individuals who have suffered from repetitive head impacts. CTE is an extremely challenging and multifaceted condition, with several symptoms like cognitive impairment, emotional disturbances, and difficulties moving. While research has improved drastically in the past few years, CTE has no definitive cure, which highlights the importance of understanding its causes, symptoms, and potential preventative measures.


What Happens To The Brain During A CTE Injury?

Chronic trauma encephalopathy (CTE) is a traumatic brain injury that occurs repeatedly. This causes degeneration of neurons in the brain. TE becomes worse. CTE can be detected by autopsy only once the brain dies or a patient dies.


How Does CTE Affect Your Life?

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy can be linked with contact sports like soccer and boxing. CTE causes progressive declines in memory and cognition, depression, suicides, poor control over impulse and aggression, parkinsonianism, and dementia.


Definition and Causes

Most people with head trauma do not suffer from CTE. A small head bump, like kicking or falling on a child’s foot, does not cause CTE. Some of the many different causes and characteristics contribute to CTE. Here are the most common:

  • Repetitive Brain Trauma – CTE most commonly appears in individuals with repetitive brain trauma, which could include concussions and non-concussive hits to the head. With repeated brain traumas, brain tissue’s decline leads to a certain protein’s buildup.
  • Impact On Athletes And Military Veterans – CTE has a major impact on athletes and military veterans in particular.
  • Distinctive Tau Protein Buildup – As previously mentioned, a buildup of the protein Tau is commonly found in the brains of those suffering from CTE. This buildup disrupts normal communication and contributes to the progression of CTE.
  • Preventative Measures – the best way to prevent issues with CTE is to limit the amount of head injuries. Furthermore, allowing for sufficient recovery time after an injury, receiving medical clearance before returning to activities, and even maintaining social engagement during recovery are excellent preventative measures.


cte symptoms


What are Subconcussive Head Impacts?

Subconcusive head impact is hitting, blowing, or jolting to the skull. Contrary to concussion Symptoms, subconcussions have no symptoms. When you play sports you can have subconcussions or traumatic impacts on your brain. CTE was discovered in persons whose previous subconcussive head impacts were never found. Researchers believe that the longer someone’s subconcussive brain injuries persist, the more he or she is affected.


Symptoms and Progression of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

While CTE is extremely difficult to identify, there are a few common symptoms associated with CTE.

  • Progressive Cognitive Impairment – Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy is typically associated with a steady decline in cognitive function. This could include but is not limited to, memory loss, difficulties in thinking planning, and impaired attention and concentration.
  • Behavioral and Emotional Changes – Additional symptoms of CTE could be altered behavioral changes like impulsivity, aggression, emotional instability, depression, anxiety, and mood disorders. The dynamic changes greatly impact a person’s quality of life and relationships.
  • Physical and Motor Symptoms – Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy could also cause physical symptoms, such as walking, balance, and coordination issues.
  • Progressive Stages – Oftentimes, CTE is described in stages, with the symptoms worsening with each stage.
  • Delayed Onset of Symptoms – Some of the symptoms could appear after some time with repeated head injuries. Two of the major forms of delayed symptoms could be mental health and behavioral issues, and the other could be symptoms later in life.
  • Motor Symptoms – CTE symptoms rarely develop during injuries. Experts believe the brains develop during repeated head trauma. Some doctors have suggested that symptoms of CTA may manifest in a second form. Early CTE symptoms can affect individuals’ psychological health or behavioral symptoms from early childhood to later ages. It can cause mood swings, depression, and impulsive behavior. CTE is a second form and causes symptoms in young adults, around the age of 60. This includes memory or thinking issues that are likely to lead to dementia. It’s unclear what signs to watch in CTE autopsies.


Risk Factors of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

There are a few different potential risk factors for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Each element comes from a range of influences, which could contribute to the neuropathological development of CTE.

  • Repetitive Head Impacts – repeated exposure to head trauma, particularly in contact and collision sports and military service, is a major risk factor for CTE.
  • Age, Sex, and Race – age, Sex, and race could make an impact on the risk potential of CTE.
  • Genetic Factors – the genetic predisposition and specific genes could have a potential influence on developing CTE.
  • Environmental and Lifestyle Factors – Many environmental and lifestyle factors could contribute to CTE.
  • Sport-Related Factors – a few sport-related factors could include number of repetitive hits to the head, age of first exposure to the brain, length of a contact sports career, specific contact sports played, and the position played.


symptoms of cte


Diagnosis and Treatment of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

It is extremely difficult to identify the prognosis of a traumatic brain injury. In addition to the diagnosis, it is also difficult to treat CTE as well.


  • Postmortem Diagnosis – CTE is currently able only to be diagnosed through a postmortem pathological analysis.
  • Clinical Criteria and Research Efforts – recent trials have been developed for Traumatic Encephalopathy Syndrome (TES).


  • Lack of Disease-Modifying Treatments – Currently, no disease-modifying treatments exist for CTE.
  • Symptomatic Management – the main focus of CTE management is simply managing the symptoms associated with the condition.


Prevention and Awareness of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy


  • Repetitive Head Trauma Avoidance – the biggest key to preventing CTE is avoiding repetitive hits to the head.
  • Safety Symbols and Signs – implementing safety symbols and signs will help increase preventive measures to prevent CTE.
  • Regulatory Compliance – Most industries have regulations mandating certain safety symbols and protocols.


  • Education and Outreach – Due to increased research into CTE, awareness has risen tenfold. Educational initiatives, outreach programs, and public awareness campaigns help inform individuals about the long-term effects of head injuries.
  • Support and Resources – Families and individuals who suffer from CTE require approval. This could include accessible information, treatment discussions, how to prevent CTE, and how to seek medical evaluation and support.


Research and Resources

The advancement of understanding about CTE is primarily due to the research conducted and resources available. The following resources and initiatives help contribute to ongoing research related to CTE.

  • CTE Research Network

    • The CTE Research Network provides a plethora of resources for research. This includes a survey of state CTE directors and in-depth interviews with the state CTE leaders. The network conducts research, which serves as high-quality CTE research and resources.
  • Learning That Works Resource Center

    • The Learning that Works Resource Center is used as a resource center to support the Career Technical Education policy and practice. The center provides information and materials to further CTE initiatives.
  • Institute of Education Sciences (IES)

    • The IES is a group in education that researches, evaluates, creates statistics, and finds research to improve CTE for students at all levels.


National Institutes of Health (NIH) Study is Looking for Answers on Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

This study will show that CTE can be diagnosed in humans when they are living. Developing a diagnostic tool for CTE will enable researchers to gain a better understanding of its symptoms. It might also cause future treatment of CTE.


How Does Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Affect Your Life?

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy can be linked with contact sports like soccer and boxing. Traumatic brain injuries cause progressive declines in memory and cognition, depression, suicides, poor control over impulse and aggression, parkinsonianism, and dementia. Furthermore, chronic traumatic encephalopathy CTE is commonly associated with other brain diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.



Overall, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy CTE is a progressive brain disorder most likely caused by repeated head injuries. This disorder leads to the decline of nerve cells in the brain. There are a number of challenges associated with this condition, most significantly the diagnosis and treatment. Research efforts are currently ongoing in order to understand the causes and risk factors most commonly associated with CTE. Contact us or visit Brain Injury Law of Seattle Today!