What Are the Symptoms of CTE?

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a disease caused by repeated blows to the head. A person can be suffering from CTE and not know it because there is currently no way to diagnose the disease until after the patient dies. Despite an inability to diagnose until after death, sufferers of illness may live with the condition for many years.

CTE is also incurable. Once a person has CTE, the illness will progress until the person dies from the illness. An autopsy can identify whether the deceased had CTE.

If the CTE resulted from preventable head trauma due to someone else’s negligence, surviving family members might have the right to seek justice for wrongful death. These are highly complex medical and legal matters, however, so you need the right traumatic brain injury lawyer assessing your legal options if your loved one died of CTE.

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There are some common signs and symptoms to look out for if you suspect your loved one suffered from CTE during their lifetime.

What Is CTE?

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a neurodegenerative disease where the central nervous system slowly stops working. CTE is a progressive disease. Most patients will enter each of the illness’s four stages, ending in death.

CTE is incurable, and doctors can only diagnose it at death. CTE presents like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, which makes treatment tricky. There is not much research on specifically treating the symptoms of CTE, so people who suffer from this disease may not get proper care to improve their quality of life.

Symptoms of CTE

There are no specific symptoms tied to CTE. There are, however, some symptoms that may make a diagnosis of CTE more probable. As the disease progresses, patients tend to experience more severe symptoms.

Doctors and researchers have found that people who lived with CTE showed some of these common signs of the illness:

  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Impaired judgment
  • Aggression
  • Depression
  • Impulse control problems
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Anxiety
  • Parkinsonism
  • Dementia

The above symptoms do not appear immediately after head trauma. It can take years, in some cases up to a decade, of repetitive head trauma for someone to develop CTE and begin to experience symptoms. These symptoms happen in four stages. During each stage, brain function changes, and the patient will start to deteriorate.

How Do Doctors Diagnose CTE?

Currently, because of the lack of understanding of CTE, doctors cannot diagnose the disease in a living patient. During an autopsy, doctors view the brain. They look for changes to brain tissue to rule out the presence of Alzheimer’s, dementia, or any other disease.

If CTE Treatable?

There are no specific treatments for CTE. This is in part due to doctors’ inability to pinpoint a diagnosis until after the patient dies from the disease. Currently, the approach for caring for CTE is preventing the head injury that starts the illness. In recent years, there has been a societal outcry for organizations like the NFL and other industries that expose their employees to potential head injuries to change their policies to protect their workers.

How Does CTE Affect a Patient’s Brain?

Repetitive hits to the head can significantly change brain function. While they won’t be diagnosed during their lifetime, people suffering from CTE may experience brain atrophy and changes in brain weight. Each of these conditions can cause the patient to lose brain function. Change in brain function takes the form of brain atrophy and a change in brain weight.

Brain Atrophy

Brain atrophy happens when the connection between neurons and brain cells is interrupted. The more brain atrophies, the worse their condition will be.

Symptoms of brain atrophy include:

  • Dementia
  • Aphasia
  • Seizures

The treatment for brain atrophy depends on the severity of the condition.

To treat brain atrophy, a patient may undergo:

  • Counseling
  • Speech therapy
  • Physical therapy

Changes in Brain Weight

Changes in brain weight happen during stage four of the disease. While brain weight will decrease naturally over time, if a person is suffering from CTE, they will lose brain volume much more quickly than others. Multiple blows cause CTE to the head. Severe impact on the head can cause the brain to move. This impact can cause brain tissue to shrink.

The change in brain weight can cause the following problems:

  • Communications
  • Thinking
  • Understanding
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Movement disorder
  • Impulse control
  • Confusion

How Does CTE Progress?

There are four disease stages, each more debilitating than the last. Currently, there is no cure for CTE, and the condition is terminal. Sufferers develop the disorder, and their condition progresses until they pass away. During their lifetime with the disease, patients will experience four stages of progression. Each stage is explained in further detail below.

Stage One

After repetitive head trauma, a person suffering from CTE will enter the first stage of the disease. During stage one, a patient may experience short-term memory problems, headaches, difficulty concentrating, mood swings, aggression, and executive dysfunction.

Stage Two

People with stage two CTE experience high rates of depression. A small percentage of patients report suicidal thoughts when they enter stage two. Patients suffer from depression, mood swings, short-term memory loss, headaches, and executive dysfunction.

Stage Three

At stage three of the illness, patients are considered cognitively impaired. Brain function begins to decline significantly. Patients may experience changes in gait or walking patterns, paranoia, apathy, aggression, problems with spatial relations, attention and concentration issues, mood swings, and loss of executive function. Memory loss is the most common sign of the disease that has entered stage three.

Stage Four

This is the final stage of the disease, and it is the most severe. During this stage of CTE, patients begin to experience severe cognition problems and memory loss that leads to full-blown dementia. During stage four, CTE begins to affect movement. The patient starts to develop Parkinsonism, an umbrella term that describes slowed movements caused by a decline in brain function. The patient may suffer from rigidity and tremors.

Can You Slow Down CTE Progression?

Unfortunately, there is no way to decrease the progression of the disease. Medicine is constantly advancing. How scientists understand the disease and how it affects the body develops regularly.

Who Is At Risk for CTE?

CTE develops after repetitive this to the head. Some professions are more likely to be exposed to head trauma, making the development of CTE more likely to occur.

Professions that are exposed to the risk of developing CTE include:

  • Professional football players
  • Professional boxers
  • Mixed martial artists
  • Professional wrestlers
  • Construction workers
  • Military personnel

Some lifestyle factors may also expose someone to a higher risk of developing CTE. For example, people involved in domestic abuse situations may suffer repeated blows to the head and risk developing CTE. If a person participates in activities like skydiving or bungee jumping, they may also risk a blow to the head that may cause a person to develop CTE.

Legal Options Regarding CTE

CTE cannot be diagnosed until after death. Therefore, your family must bring a wrongful death lawsuit after diagnosis if they suspect negligence was the cause of developing the disease. A wrongful death lawsuit is one of the most complicated and complex personal injury lawsuits. If doctors diagnosed your loved one with CTE after death, you need an experienced wrongful death attorney to recover compensation for your losses.

What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Deceased family members or the deceased’s estate may bring wrongful death lawsuits if a defendant’s negligence caused their death. Wrongful death law varies by state, including the parties allowed to recover compensation. You should contact an experienced attorney to ensure your legal rights are protected.

What Is the Statute of Limitations for CTE Legal Claims?

A statute of limitations is a deadline imposed by law that gives plaintiffs a limited time period to file a lawsuit or settle a claim. The statute of limitations exists to encourage injured people to timely file a claim and keep defendants from having a potential lawsuit hanging over their heads.

The statute of limitations for wrongful death claims varies depending on the state. However, if you suspect you have a wrongful death claim, you should speak to a qualified attorney as soon as possible to ensure you do not miss the statute of limitations. In most circumstances, the statute of limitations is a hard and fast rule. That means if you miss the applicable statute, you cannot recover compensation.

Who Can Be Responsible for CTE Injuries?

Finding the party or parties responsible for a CTE claim can get complicated. Because of the nature of the disease, it can be difficult to pinpoint where the illness started or what impact caused the patient to enter the first stage of CTE. Because of this difficulty, knowing who is responsible or if multiple parties are involved can be tricky without an attorney investigating your claim’s facts.

How Can an Attorney Help Me?

Cases involving CTE can be overwhelming. They begin with family members losing their loved ones slowly as they lose their cognitive abilities, and if you have a CTE claim, that means you have lost someone close to you from the disease. The emotional impact of the illness is enough of a burden. Learning the legal side of how to handle things is an unnecessary weight to place on your shoulders. An experienced attorney can help you resolve your case by providing the following:

Legal Skill and Knowledge

If you have a claim involving a loved one who passed away from CTE, you need an attorney with experience handling cases like yours. With an experienced attorney, you can trust that they know the common pitfalls of these kinds of cases and, more importantly, know how to avoid them.

Civil lawsuits involve many technical rules, and each must be complied with to protect your claim. Your attorney is knowledgeable about these rules and will use their resources to ensure your case complies with each rule. You can trust that your attorney will handle the law so you can focus on healing and helping your family heal after your loss.

Negotiation Experience

These types of cases begin with negotiations with the insurance company. Insurance companies are large corporate entities focused solely on protecting profits. To protect the bottom line, insurance adjusters will send over lowball offers at the beginning of a case; they will want you to give a recorded statement that paints you into a corner, and they may even try to claim your injuries were caused by something other than the negligence of their insured.

An accident attorney will protect you from the tactics of an insurance company. Unrepresented plaintiffs typically do not fare well working with insurance companies. Plaintiffs represented by counsel show the insurance company they mean business and they will not settle for less than what they deserve.

Preparing Your Case for Trial

A lot of leg work goes into preparing for a civil trial. If you initiate litigation and cannot settle with the insurance company, your case will be resolved at trial. CTE is a complex disease, and it will take a professional to present evidence at trial in a digestible way. The more direct you are when presenting evidence, the more persuasive your argument will be and the higher the likelihood of a successful outcome. An experienced trial attorney can help you tell your story compellingly, putting you in the best position to achieve maximum financial recovery.

Contact an Injury Attorney in Your Area

Tatiana Boohoff, lawyer for Injury cases near North Port.
Tatiana Boohoff, Injury Attorney in North Port.

After losing a loved one to CTE, the best next step to take is to contact an attorney to discuss your legal rights. Your attorney will be your best advocate when trying to get financial compensation to recoup some of your losses.

No amount of money can bring a loved one back, but pursuing litigation can help ease the burden of financial loss after losing a loved one. Contact a traumatic brain injury attorney in your area to discuss your legal options.

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March 10, 2023
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