Health Education

What you should know about CTE

Cropped SingleCare logo By | June 15, 2016

You’ve probably heard a lot about CTE. Here’s what you should know. 

Bubba Smith, All-pro defensive end and movie actor, has been diagnosed with CTE after his death in 2011. Along with NFLers Junior Seau, Frank Gifford, and BMX star Dave Mirra, the effects of CTE on mental health have been hotly debated in the realms of sport and science.  

CTE, which stands for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, is a degenerative disease affected the brain that is brought about by severe or repeated blows to the head. As there is no reliable test for CTE while a patient is still alive, CTE can only be diagnosed after death, making it very difficult to identify.

Suicide and CTE

Despite the media fervor around high-profile suicides of athletes later found to be suffering from CTE, the truth of the relationship between CTE and suicide remains murky. Dr. Bennet Omalu, recently portrayed by Will Smith in Concussion, has suggested that post-traumatic stress disorder, which is highly correlated with various mental issues and suicide, may actually be a type of CTE brought on by physical head trauma.

However, surveys have shown that among the population of former NFL players, the suicide rate was actually lower than the general population. This refutes the commonly held misunderstanding that ex-footballers are at a higher risk of suicide. In fact, ex-pros have a decreased number of deaths from cancer and heart disease compared to the general population, as well.  


Little Boys playing soccer on the sports field

[Image credit: fotokostic / Thinkstock]

Kids and Sports

So should high school kids (or anyone) play contact sports? The results of many surveys of youth athletes in sports including hockey, soccer (where repeating heading of the ball can be an issue), boxing and football are complicated, to say the least. Definitive conclusions on CTE development or neurological impairment from contact sports during adolescence are still to be found, but the consensus makes sense: concussions, and even less serious head trauma, can be bad for your brain.

Already, many youth programs are taking steps to limit head trauma and full contact play outside of game time. Many colleges have already enacted no-contact practices. It is worth investigating what your child’s league or coach is doing to mitigate this impact.

Any concerns about neurological health or psychological issues should be taken seriously and addressed as soon as possible. SingleCare can help you get the right care, and can help you  find discounted therapy and low-cost mental health services. SingleCare members save up to 48% on mental healthcare and gain access to top providers in various disciplines, including psychologists, psychiatrists, and counselors, so you can find what’s best for you.

[Main image credit: Kuzma / Thinkstock]