Posted on Dec 12, 2011 in Health & safety, Sports & fitness
I’ve heard the term dementia pugilistica in the news recently in regards to some hockey and football players, but I really don’t know anything about it. Is this kind of brain damage a new phenomenon?
Dementia pugilistica, also known as boxer’s dementia, punch-drunk syndrome, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a form of neurodegenerative disease or dementia that can affect boxers, as well as athletes in other contact sports — such as football, hockey and wrestling — who suffer repeated concussions.
Symptoms of CTE include:
Eventually, the disease progresses to issues such as erratic behavior, memory loss, and finally progresses to a deterioration into full-on dementia including Parkinson’s like symptoms — speech difficulties, loss of motor control, and the like.
Apart from the answer “repeated blows to the head,” the truth is we still really don’t know that much about CTE, why some people are more susceptible to it, and how it progresses. There is still no definitive answer as to how many concussions are too many, how severe the concussions have to be, or even if some athletes are more “tolerant” and some or more “susceptible” to CTE and why. The fact that CTE can only be diagnosed posthumously slows the pace of study on the disease.
Research is still in the early stages, and Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University currently has over 250 athletes on their brain donation registry, so that further investigation and tests can run in the future.
Unfortunately, the sports world is littered with the names of those who have suffered from this disease, particularly those involved in contact sports such as football, hockey, and of course, boxing.
Here are a few notable examples from several sports, with links to more information about their battles with CTE/dementia pugilistica:
Photos, from top: Andre Waters, Derek Boogaard, Mike Webster
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