Repeated Head Trauma Can Lead to CTE

”]”]In the medical world, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a rising star, sure to become a household name. And the turning point in CTE’s infamy may have just been reported this week, with the report that former hockey great Rick Martin had CTE at the time of his death. First, some background:

CTE is a kind of central nervous system damage that happens when people suffer repeated head injuries, typically soldiers or athletes in high impact sports, such as football or ice hockey. Early symptoms of CTE include memory problems, difficulty concentrating, and disorientation. As the disease progresses, people with CTE show behavioral problems—poor judgment, aggression, sexual compulsiveness, erratic behavior, and drug and alcohol abuse—as well as increasing nervous system symptoms, including tremors, staggering gait, deafness, and dementia. Unfortunately, the only way to definitely diagnose CTE is to examine the brain of the affected individual during an autopsy.

The organization that is at the forefront of research into CTE is the “brain bank” run by the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy (CSTE). Some athletes who believe they may have CTE donate their brains to the brain bank for examination after their death. That was the case with former football pro Dave Duerson, who committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest to preserve his brain for examination and diagnosis. (To read more about Dave Duerson’s story, click here: Football Player Donates Brain to Research.)


An article in The New York Times reported that former NHL star Rick Martin had CTE when he died last March of a heart attack at age 59. What makes this revelation a game-changer is that Martin was not known for being an on-ice fighter, and he only had one known concussion, way back in 1978. His head ht the ice, and he experienced immediate convulsions.

“Rick Martin’s case shows us that even hockey players who don’t engage in fighting are at risk for C.T.E., likely because of the repetitive brain trauma players receive throughout their career,” said Chris Nowinski, a director at the center and co-founder of the Sports Legacy Institute, which seeks to advance the study, treatment and prevention of brain trauma in athletes.

The thought is that although Martin had only one documented concussion, he had several more head impacts—trivial, but cumulatively damaging.

For everyone, the message is simple:  Protect your head!  This new information suggests that any blow to the head could contribute to long-term problems. You never know which blow with be the one to send your brain over the edge to permanent, progressive damage.

To read the full article in The New York Times, click here:  Former Star Had Disease Linked to Brain Trauma

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