When the human head takes repeated blows over and over the chances for injury to the brain increase. This could lead to a condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), also known as dementia puglistica according to the Mayo Clinic. The common name is boxer’s dementia because when a boxer gets hit in the head many more times than normal over an entire lifetime the blows add up. Depending upon the part of the brain that gets injured the most, patients may exhibit memory loss, muscle stiffness, slow movement, and even impaired speech.
This condition is common in boxers but recent news has found a startling new conclusion about chronic traumatic encephalopathy that may need further study. The New York Times reported that former Cincinnati Bengals football player Chris Henry died of the condition last December. What is most unnerving about this case is that he was only 26 years old and was the first player to die from chronic traumatic encephalopathy while still playing. Henry was also the youngest NFL player to die from it.
Preventing CTE is simple. What causes the disease is brain trauma repeated over and over again. Concussions only compound the problem. What is difficult in diagnosis of chronic traumatic encephalopathy is that it can only be detected by examining brain tissue at the microscopic level for protein deposits and abnormalities. In other words, the patient has to die in order to be diagnosed with CTE.
Preventing the repeated trauma is the only way to cure it. If you are a boxer, you should stop being a boxer. Playing full contact football may also lead to CTE according to SportsMD. Concussions are a frequent indicator that the brain is getting too much trauma. Protective equipment gets better every year but there is only so much the brain can take as it gets rattled back and forth.
Other things to do would be better head protection for football players and even wearing padding around the head for boxers such as those worn at Olympic competitions. There will always be football with protective helmets and boxing in the ring. Proper management and time off after suffering a concussion to the head is one way to help prevent CTE.
When a boxer or football player gets a concussion they usually take some time off. One study in 2010 suggests that 85 percent of those who suffer a concussion should take three weeks off. Some football players even return to the field even the same day as receiving a huge blow to the head.
It is very important to make sure the player doesn’t return to the field until all symptoms of the concussion are gone. If another impact happens the athlete could be worse than before or even suffer what is called second impact syndrome.
Because chronic traumatic encephalopathy can only be determined after an athlete dies it is very important to seek a diagnosis early. Someone who shows signs of dementia or any loss of motor coordination should seek the advice of a sports medicine expert immediately.
This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. If you or a loved one is an athlete and takes multiple blows to the head you should have regular doctor visits to test for vision and brain function.
The Mayo Clinic, New York Times, and SportsMD all contributed information for this article.