10 Jan Combat Veterans Coming Home With CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy)
Until a few years ago, NFL players who struggled with severe depression, bouts of rage and memory loss in their retirement were often told they were just having a hard time adjusting to life away from the game. Doctors have since learned these changes can be symptoms of the degenerative brain disease CTE — chronic traumatic encephalopathy, caused by blows to the head.
What we’re learning now is that CTE isn’t just affecting athletes, but also showing up in our nation’s heroes. Since 9/11 over 300,000 soldiers have returned home with brain injuries. Researchers fear the impact of CTE could cripple a generation of warriors.
Anxiety, irritability, memory loss, cognitive problems, profound depression—often to the point of suicide.
These have been the unwelcome symptoms ushering the return home for thousands of veterans since 9/11. In that time, more than 300,000 service members have been given a diagnosis of traumatic brain injury, but scientists are now learning that some of those injuries are much more severe than they initially thought.
When Joy Kieffer buried her 34-year old son this past summer, it was the end of a long goodbye.
Kieffer’s son, Sgt. Kevin Ash, enlisted in the Army Reserves at the age of 18. Over three deployments, he was exposed to 12 combat blasts, many of them roadside bombs. He returned home in 2012 a different man.
As correspondent Sharyn Alfonsisome veterans’ brains are affected by chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, caused by repeated blows to the head.
CTE is the same disease that’s rocking the football world. This summer, neuropathologist Dr. Ann McKee discovered CTE in the brains of 110 out of 111 deceased N.F.L. players, raising serious concerns for the men still playing the game.
Now Dr. McKee is seeing similar patterns in deceased veterans who were subject to head trauma from combat blasts. Of the 102 veterans’ brains she has examined, 66 had CTE.
Researchers are trying to prevent and treat CTE, the brain disease caused by repetitive head trauma – including combat blasts. Here’s how vets can help…
For a complete description of the research protocol for the Mount Sinai study of athletes and veterans with repeated head injuries and concussions, visit https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02266563
To seek care for CTE:
US Department of Veterans Affairs
Dr. McKee is leading the charge in researching head trauma and CTE at the VA-Boston University-Concussion Legacy Foundation Brain Bank, where researchers carefully dissect sections of the brain. They look for changes in the folds of the frontal lobes, an area responsible for memory, judgement, emotions, impulse control and personality. The VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank is the largest tissue repository in the world focused on CTE.
Dr. McKee is hoping more veterans will pledge to donate their brains after they die, similar to becoming an organ donor.
“The military is where we’re really lacking,” she tells Alfonsi. “We know we need answers for the military. And we just haven’t been as successful recruiting those brains. We know that they’re there, so we’re trying to increase the visibility of that.”
For families who wish to donate a brain for research, please contact the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank directly by calling a research assistant.
Bobbie Abdolmohammadi: 617-414-1184
Laney Evers: 617-414-1187
For urgent brain donation matters, please call the center’s 24/7 voicemail/pager: 617-992-0615
Pledging one’s brain is similar to organ donation. To learn more about how you can pledge your brain to the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank, visit https://concussionfoundation.org/pledge
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