A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury. In other words, it only affects brain function for a short time. Your chances of recovering from a single concussion are very good.
However, if you experience multiple concussions over time, your long-term prognosis may not be so favorable. According to Practical Neurology, recurrent concussions can have a cumulative adverse effect on the brain.
What is chronic traumatic encephalopathy?
Encephalopathy refers to a disease that occurs inside the head. Traumatic means resulting from a violent injury and chronic means occurring over time. Therefore, CTE is a condition of the brain that occurs due to trauma over a long period of time.
How can CTE change the brain?
Not everyone who has CTE exhibits observable changes in the brain. It may appear completely normal. However, researchers have observed certain changes in the brains of some CTE patients. These include atrophy, which occurs when certain areas of the brain start to shrink. This can cause structures in the brain to become abnormally thin, as well as a reduction in the overall weight of the brain.
What are the possible complications of CTE?
While a definitive cause-and-effect relationship is still under investigation, research suggests that people with CTE may be at risk for developing neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease or ALS. As a matter of fact, James Parkinson, who first described the condition that now bears his name, suggested brain injury as a possible cause back in the 19th century.
Who is at risk for CTE?
Doctors first observed the condition in boxers and believed it to be exclusive to them. However, athletes who participate in other contact sports, such as football, have also shown similar symptoms. Symptoms of CTE have also manifested among military personnel. Theoretically, anyone who experiences recurrent concussions is at risk for CTE.