Former NFL players Tony Dorsett, Joe DeLamielleure, and Leonard Marshall are diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, known as CTE.
CTE is a progressive degenerative brain disease found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma. The type of brain trauma that is common among football players and boxers. According to Boston University, the brain degeneration of this disease is characterized by memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression and eventually dementia.
CTE also is associated with an abnormal buildup of a brain cell protein called tau. In particular, various forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, is associated with an abnormal buildup of a phosphorylated tau protein or p-tau. Clumps of p-tau are known to impair the function of brain axons. Axons make it possible for brain cells to communicate with each other. When our brain cell communication ability is disrupted, various forms of dementia develop.
The three players sought medical help when they noticed memory loss, feelings of depression and suicide, and fogginess of thought.
There is one silver lining to the diagnosis of these three players. Researchers can now observe this disease in living people. Until now, doctors were only able to see the results of this disease after the deaths of athletes. Tracking CTE in living people will help medical researchers develop early diagnosis procedures and possible treatments.
No one is saying that football is the direct cause of CTE. But it’s clear that athletes who experience repeated head trauma, common in football and boxing, have a high risks factor for developing CTE.