By On September 17th, 2014

Does Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Really Make People More Violent?

AggressionIf you look at any list of symptoms for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the neurodegenerative brain disease associated with repeated brain injuries, you are fairly likely to see violent outbursts among others such as cognitive decline, memory problems, and mood changes such as depression or anxiety.

It seems fair enough, as many of the professional athletes who have been recently diagnosed with CTE post-mortem had behavioral problems including violence before their death. However, a recent article from the New Republic suggests the association may not be so simple.

Naomi Shavin spoke with Dr. Alison Brooks of the University of Wisconsin Madison, who pointed out that many football players are prone to high-risk behavior from the very start. Obviously, this plays a role in leading them to choose to be football players, but it also tends to make players more inclined towards drugs, alcohol, and aggressive behavior. Even when you factor in CTE, numerous factors such as steroid or drug use and pre-existing mental health issues could also facilitate violent behavior.

Other medical professionals have also been hesitant to distinguish a direct link between CTE and violent behavior. Dr. Michael Wolf, a pediatrician specializing in sports medicine at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia and on the faculty at Drexel University School of Medicine told Shavin, “in medicine we’re very resistant to make big claims on isolated events.”

On the other hand, there are several studies suggesting there may be more to the association than outside factors and isolated events. Several studies have examined the high rates of brain injuries among prison populations, and rates of brain injury are believed to be almost 100% among death row inmates. Additionally, a 1996 report found that Vietnam War Veterans who suffered penetrating brain injuries with damage to a particular part of the frontal cortex were more prone to aggression.

Ultimately, this is just one of many questions still not thoroughly answered by our current understandings of traumatic brain injury and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. While we have a lot of information at our fingerprints, there is still a long way to go before we really understand these conditions and can treat them properly.

3 Responses

  1. Vicki Gailey says:

    It is very unfair to not continue to explore ways to alleviate these problems for future players, it is a way to last the players and their families know that we care. My mom refused,sed to.let my brother play a game he loved for fear of being Being hurt, not even knowing about cute. Now that l am older l share her feelings but once they come.of age you don’t have that call as a parent. All info needs to be out there so a educated decision can be made. And all that comes with being hurt or incorporated.who will care.for you who will.pay for it

  2. Adrienne Scott says:

    The CTE plays games with memory. On top of poor memory the people who suffer from it have a harder time with frustration. They often snap and go into rages. They can become paranoid too, all of it related to poor memory. My husband has CTE and it is getting worse each year. He is only 42 and he has had an IQ drop of 15 points in 10 years. I have professionally documentation of that fact. His memory has holes and he goes onto scary rages, more often with each passing year. He also hears a ringing in his left ear and has poor impulse control. He was AllStar once upon a time.

    • Jennifer Justus Thompson says:

      Adrienne Scott if I didnt know better I would think we were married to the same man. My husband is 47 we have been together 21 years and he has every symptom you mentioned including the ringing of ears. Its scary and heartbreaking at the same time. My husband was once a small business owner who taught me everything about finances and now he cannot understand the concept of managing money. He is very irresponsible and gets agitated easily. I would love to talk to you more. I am on facebook.

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