CTE, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, is coming to the forefront of public awareness after numerous professional American football players began suffering a constellation of symptoms: paranoia, confusion, memory lapses, etc. It was initially observed, however, in boxers.
It was initially called dementia pugilistica and referred to as being “punch-drunk”. Now we understand that those repetitive blows to the head have enormous consequence. Symptom onset is delayed – usually it’s first noticed nearly a decade after the repetitive mild head injuries occur. The primary pathology is a reduction in neural tissue, a decrease in white matter, a buildup of certain proteins (this over-buildup leads to issues) and atrophy of the amygdala and hippocampus.
For EMT’s and Paramedics who are routinely called upon to work youth and high school contact sporting events, knowledge of CTE is a must. The key is prevention – if you’re stationed on the sidelines working a contact sports game, be alert! Those hard football tackles may lead to serious problems down the road!