Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a serious brain condition that can be triggered by repetitive head trauma, such as in sports. It can cause terrible symptoms, such as cognitive impairment, mood disorders and behavioral disorders. CTE cannot currently be diagnosed while the patient is alive. Developing such a diagnostic procedure could help doctors intervene earlier, possibly improving the CTE patient’s quality of life.

A small new study suggests that certain symptoms of CTE may be more prevalent than others, depending on the patient’s age. If true, this could indicate a pattern that could help in future diagnoses. It could also help doctors know to keep young athletes off the field if they are exhibiting mood swings.

Researchers looked at the cases of 36 people who were diagnosed with CTE after dying. They were of various ages and had played sports like hockey and boxing that are commonly associated with CTE. All showed some combination of mood, behavior and cognitive problems prior to death. But two-thirds of the subjects developed behavior/mood disorders and died at a younger age. The remaining third suffered from cognitive problems that arose later in life and died at higher age.

CTE is a terrible illness that can have a devastating effect on a person’s life. Besides the symptoms discussed above, CTE can cause chronic headaches and motor dysfunction. This form of brain injury may not be the sort sustained due to the negligence of others such as in a car accident, but any research to improve treatment is welcome.

Source: MedPage Today, “Behavior Changes Show Up Early in Traumatic Brain Injury,” Charles Bankhead, Aug. 22, 2013