In a tragic story that showcases just how damaging hits on the football field can be, former professional football player Ronney Jenkins was recently profiled by CNN where he discussed the damage that he believes chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is currently doing to his brain.
CTE is a terrible degenerative neurological condition that has been found in the brains of dozens of deceased former NFL players. One of the most insidious aspects of the disease is that so far, scientists can only diagnose a person with it posthumously. CTE is diagnosed by analyzing brain tissue, with doctors looking for the presence of tiny clumps of a protein known as tau. This means that though Jenkins is feeling potential symptoms of CTE, he is left to wonder whether he is actually afflicted with the disease.
Though no one can be sure of Jenkins’ status, he appears to fit into an emerging portrait of those who have been diagnosed with CTE. Jenkins is a retired professional football player who took frequent blows to the head, several of which knocked him out. Another clear indication of CTE or other severe brain trauma is how his life has unraveled as he aged.
Jenkins says that recently his mood began to change, swinging wildly and without reason. He says he’s often thought he was going crazy yet has received few definitive answers from doctors. Jenkins said he began to suspect CTE several years ago after an especially dark mood settled over him that was punctuated by deep bouts of rage.
Doctors have grown frustrated about their lack of information about CTE, specifically their inability to detect the condition while a patient is still alive. One group of researchers is trying to change that and recently published a new study that attempts to identify what CTE looks like during life.
The study, published this week in the journal Neurology, suggests that CTE symptoms first emerge at a young age. The study says that behavioral and mood problems are the first indications of trouble and occur when injured players are young. In later years, these mood issues morph into memory and thinking problems. Researchers arrived at these conclusions after painstakingly interviewing the families of 36 deceased professional athletes – 29 football players, three hockey players, one wrestler and three boxers – who have since been diagnosed with CTE.
Though doctors are quick to acknowledge that this first survey is small and not yet generalizable, it offers a starting point and contributes important information to what is currently known about CTE. The hope is that further studies are conducted so that one day players suffering from CTE can be identified early and treated, sparing them and their families decades of painful decline.
Pope McGlamry P.C., currently represents former professional football players and their families for injuries and damages sustained as a result of suffering concussions while playing professional football and is actively involved in the current concussion litigation. If you or someone you love has been injured during your professional football career, you may be entitled to compensation.
Source: “Study offers clues about how athletes’ brain disease begins,” by Stephanie Smith, published at CNN.com.
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