A new degenerative brain disorder, mostly found in professional athletes who have suffered numerous traumatic brain injuries, has found its way into the headlines once more after an autopsy revealed the disorder in former NFL quarterback Cullen Finnerty just this month. Although his official cause of death was due to a case of pneumonia, doctors believe that the degenerative brain disorder could have aided in the footballer’s death.
For those of our Texas readers who may not be familiar with the disorder of which we speak, we’re talking about chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The condition has gained a lot of national attention over the last few months as doctors across the United States are discovering the disorder more and more in deceased athletes. Also called CTE, the condition can cause depression, memory loss and even dementia, all of which can be disabling in their own way.
As the disorder progresses, it can become more and more debilitating, often leading to the accidental deaths of many current and former athletes. In the case of Finnerty, doctors believe he may have gotten disoriented because of his condition, wandering off into the woods where he eventually died. Unfortunately, detecting the disorder currently requires doctors to look at a sample of the brain, which can only be done during an autopsy.
Though scientists are looking into new methods that would allow them to diagnose the disorder on living patients, concussion-prone athletes across that nation, including many here in Texas, may be suffering from the condition and not even know it. Without a proper diagnosis, these athletes might be considered disabled but not eligible for benefits. And when it comes to CTE, this could mean the difference between having financial means to get treatment and being at risk of accidental death down the road.
Source: The Bleacher Report, “Autopsy of Former Ravens Quarterback Cullen Finnerty Reveals CTE,” Tyler Conway, Aug. 8, 2013