CTE: Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

Christian DeMoro

On Monday, June 25, 2007, a discovery with a long-standing impact on the sports world was made. Georgia authorities were sent to the home of former WWE world champion Chris Benoit to check on him after he asked to be excused from the previous Saturday’s show, claiming his son was in the hospital. Upon arrival, police discovered the lifeless bodies of Chris, his wife Nancy, and their 7-year-old son Daniel. The original conclusion was that a triple-murder had occurred, but the true details became apparent the next night. Sheriffs notified the company that Benoit had murdered both his wife and son before taking his own life.  People everywhere were left stunned, confused, and wondering what caused the wrestling icon to do commit the horrifying crime.

A study conducted on Benoit’s brain revealed that he had suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. This condition is found in people who have had several concussions or taken frequent hits to the head at a point in their life, with majority of its cases taking place in wrestlers, boxers, and football players. CTE causes a progressive degeneration of brain tissue, with patients experiencing symptoms similar to those of Alzheimer’s. Neurologists have found that when a person is repeatedly hit in the head, the brain’s tau protein changes shape. The proteins are then released into the brain cells as they normally are, however their improper shape causes them to “clump together” and kill the brain cells. According to the Brain Injury Research Institute, symptoms of CTE include “difficulty to control impulsive behavior, impaired judgement, and behavioral disturbances including depression and aggression,” which is thought to be the reason why many of those that have had the condition committed suicide or harmed others.

Currently, CTE can only be confirmed by studying the brain after death. However, advancements on the condition are constantly being made, and scientists believe that they will soon be able to test and diagnose living humans with CTE as well as treat the condition if it is found. The news comes as an extremely positive discovery for the world of both sports and medical science, as it creates a way to prevent haunting events similar to the Benoit tragedy from occurring again.
Author: Christian DeMoro