Chronic traumatic encephalopathy in a 25 year old football player: a case report

Written by Alice Weatherston

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a neurodegenerative tauopathy, caused by multiple head impacts. The condition can only be diagnosed during autopsy following death. Researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine (MA, USA) recently reported the case of a man who experienced more than 10 concussions while playing football over a period of 16 years. The report was published in the journal JAMA Neurology.
The authors report that this is the first autopsy-confirmed case of CTE to include neuropsychological testing, which can be utilized to document the type of cognitive issues that are associated with CTE. The 25 year old man experienced more than 10 concussions while playing football, the earliest incident occurring when he was 8 years of age. He played football for a total of 16 years, starting at the age of 6, including 3 years of higher level Division I college football.

In his first year of college he experienced concussion, which led to brief loss of consciousness and subsequent headaches, neck pain and problems with memory and concentration. The man eventually had to leave school due to the recurrence of symptoms and later experienced difficulty in his job and began using marijuana to manage headaches and anxiety and to help him sleep. The authors report that he died of cardiac arrest that followed Staphylococus aureus endocarditis.

The inclusion of neuropsychological testing provides an opportunity to establish whether impairments such as these are common in other cases of CTE.

Source: John Hopkins medicine press release; Mez J et al. Pathologically Confirmed Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in a 25-Year-Old Former College Football Player. JAMA Neurol. (2016); doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2015.3998 (Epub ahead of print).