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Study Shows Promise in Unraveling Mystery of Chronic Brain Injury

The long-term effects of repeated brain injuries have garnered widespread attention in recent years, especially in relation to professional athletes and others who regularly take blows to the head. A major stumbling block in studying the effect of ongoing brain injury has been timing – the internal physical effects to the brain have been confirmed through autopsy, limiting the application of knowledge when it comes to living patients. A new study may have pinpointed a way to identify chronic brain injury while the patient is still alive – when there is still a chance to help the individual.

Study may overcome barriers to understanding CTE

Last month, the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease published a study examining people who have had head injuries. The study sought to identify chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease in which abnormal proteins destroy brain cells, causing cognitive and emotional disturbance and even suicide.

CTE is most commonly associated with football players, who are subject to repeated hits to the head. Unfortunately, diagnosing CTE has required examination of brain tissue during an autopsy to detect the proteins that cause physical brain damage. This has impeded researchers’ understanding of the disease.

PET scans show chronic brain injury

In the recent study, seven military personnel with suspected CTE were injected with a molecular tracer which binds to the protein characteristic of CTE and measured by PET scan. The scans were compared to fifteen retired NFL football players who had sustained brain injuries and showed symptoms of CTE; 24 people with Alzheimer’s; and 28 control subjects.

The scans of the military personnel were different from the scans of the Alzheimer’s patients and control subjects, but similar to the scans of the football players, all of whom had scans similar to other players who had died and had CTE confirmed through autopsy. Dr. Gary Small, a UCLA professor and the study’s lead researcher, points out that the study is just the first step to understanding CTE but is encouraged that it points the way toward more complete study of the disorder. It also offers hope of identifying CTE in living patients.

Lasting impact of brain injuries

Even when a traumatic brain injury does not lead to CTE, it can have long-lasting impact on the sufferer’s functioning and quality of life. Severe brain injury may require years of rehabilitation to regain, or cope with loss of, cognitive, physical, and psychological functioning. Newer research shows that even an apparently mild brain injury can lead to long-term disability, so follow-up care and medical observation are crucial following a head injury.

The team of Los Angeles brain injury lawyers at the Ellis Injury Law Firm are here to help those who have suffered a traumatic brain injury and their loved ones hold those at fault accountable. Words cannot describe the disruption that a brain injury can cause to an individual and his or her family, but we have helped injury victims throughout southern California attain the compensation needed to start to put their lives back in order. Call 888-675-8254 today to schedule a free confidential consultation.

Additional chronic brain injury resources:

  1. NPR, Scientists Hunt For A Test To Diagnose Chronic Brain Injury In Living People, https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/07/17/629593428/scientists-hunt-a-test-for-chronic-injury-in-living-brains
  2. Brain Injury Research Institute, What Is CTE?, http://www.protectthebrain.org/Brain-Injury-Research/What-is-CTE-.aspx