Understanding CTE: The Silent Killer of Brain Health

Understanding CTE: The Silent Killer of Brain Health

Video Transcript

0:00:05 - Shane Smith Hey, I'm Shane Smith. I'm here with Thomas and we're here on an episode of Mind Matters: Navigating Head Injuries and Concussions. Thomas is one of the attorneys of the Concussion and Brain Injury Group here at Shane Smith Law. Thomas, we're going to talk today about impacts of a concussion. What specifically are we talking about?

0:00:23 - Thomas Ozbolt Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

0:00:26 - Shane Smith Now that's a whole mouthful, obviously. Is that, and I know they abbreviated CTE, and now I know why because that sounds difficult to say and probably difficult to understand. What is that? What is CTE?

0:00:41 - Thomas Ozbolt Yeah, it's something that's kind of come to light through different sports and different studies that we've had that have resulted from some incidents in sports. Jovan Belcher from the Kansas City Chiefs that was a big incident that happened. Some time ago, he ended up suffering from CTE and killing himself, killing his family, and raised a lot of questions about what the heck is going on with these different athletes and sports where these seemingly bizarre things are happening because there is no history with him. CTE is a degenerative brain disease and it's associated with repeated head traumas.

0:01:20 - Shane Smith So degenerative means it's going to get worse over time, right?

0:01:24 - Thomas Ozbolt Yeah, you know, a couple impacts. Over time they add up, create this cumulative effect where you're rapidly degenerating in brain function.

0:01:33 - Shane Smith Now I've always heard that once you've had one concussion you're more likely to get another one, just because I guess your brain is more fragile. So the multiple concussions is definitely what leads to this, or makes it much more likely to occur.

0:01:48 - Thomas Ozbolt Yeah, just repeated head trauma having that cumulative effect that a couple years down the road you've aged in terms of your brain health by decades, years.

0:02:00 - Shane Smith So boxers, football players or just some of those unlucky people. I mean, I know a guy who honestly had been in, I think, 15 car wrecks by the time he was like 25. He was like, yeah, three concussions, two broken arms. He was just a train wreck for car accidents. But those multiple concussions, they don't have to be close in time together, I guess is what we're talking about.

0:02:18 - Thomas Ozbolt Right, yeah, they don't have to be close in time to each other and you know they might not even show up on someone's radar as being a concussion. I know, you know, the NFL specifically, you're seeing it in offensive linemen and you know offensive linemen aren't getting tackled. They're having that, you know ball gets snapped, they're popping up and they're having a collision with somebody, but they're not getting popped in the head. That's a penalty. They're just getting a big acceleration, deceleration force and over time, you know these guys are, you know, turning 50 and everyone around them, you know, thinks they're 70 or 80 years old.

0:02:58 - Shane Smith So it can be the mild concussions, or even the mildest of concussions can lead to this if you have it time after time after time.

0:03:05 - Thomas Ozbolt Yeah, yeah, it can definitely add up. It doesn't have to be a big impact, it can be something smaller. You can even call it the silent killer. And that's because the symptoms of this, the CTE, they don't you know usually appear until years or even decades, really, after the initial injuries happened.

0:03:22 - Shane Smith So what exactly is CTE? What happens and what's it cost? Or what did this- Let's go down to: What are the symptoms of what happens when I've got CTE years later? Right? What is the killer? What's triggering? What's going on?

0:03:37 - Thomas Ozbolt One of the things that might put it on your radar that someone might be suffering from CTE could be memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment. There might be impulse control problems.

0:03:48 - Shane Smith So is that like today, or is that like 20 years from now, when that stuff will all kick in?

0:03:53 - Thomas Ozbolt Yeah, it could all kind of kick in 20 years down the road. It could be years from the time that somebody was playing a sport or being involved in car accidents. You know, it's one of those things. We're just scratching the surface of this.

0:04:08 - Shane Smith So that sounds horrible, I mean horrifying, honestly. I mean you could think you're fine and then 20 years later, bam and find out it's from something years prior. I guess the only thing you can look out for is if you have multiple concussions, you know, make sure you're thoroughly checked out and everything is tested, and just know there's gonna be some symptoms, to know you can't just shake off your third or fourth concussion.

0:04:30 - Thomas Ozbolt Right, yeah, and you know making sure that your coaches or you know different people around you, friends and family are kind of monitoring those things, and you know, in any contact sport these days, this is something that can be a risk. You know, we think about football, we think about UFC, MMA, you know different things like that, but I mean even a sport as low contact as soccer. You know these guys are jumping up and whacking the ball with their heads and you know that can cause, and that's enough. Yeah, it could definitely do it.

0:05:02 - Shane Smith You know, the more we talk about concussions and brain injuries and stuff, the more frightening it is to me, honestly. You know, when we talk about the massive head injuries, okay, and then when we step, take a step back from that and we go to these quote minor head injuries, you know, and we learn about the symptoms and all the stuff that can happen for that minor head injury, it's frightening to me because those aren't, those aren't the things you think about. You know, when I hear somebody had a head injury initially I'm thinking the guy who went to the hospital who's got to do rehab, all that stuff. They're not the person who goes, maybe this is their third concussion, you know, because they had one playing football and one playing soccer, or they fell once and now they're in a car wreck. All relatively mild, and now they've got all these symptoms right and we're worried about things like CTE or other stuff. What else would you tell us about CTE?

0:05:53 - Thomas Ozbolt Yeah, I think you know, again, we're scratching the surface of it and there's lots of studies that are out there, a lot of it, you know it's going to come to light, you know, over the next few years and maybe decades, as we continue to find different ways to evaluate what's happening to our brains just through everyday living and contact sports, different things like that. You know, having the right protective equipment, you know, if there's any parents out there, people are like, oh man, I don't want to have my children involved in anything. You know, yeah, because you know, put them in a bubble and hey, let's just, you know, sit at home and look at screens all day. You know, I don't know that that's the right answer. I know that's not the right answer, but there's definitely new equipment that's out there that teams, different sports, are using to help minimize these risks. Now, if you're an NFL fan and you're watching any of the training camp stuff, you're wondering why the football players look like Marvin the Martian out there from the Flintstones with massive helmets. They've got these big bubble, I think they call them guardian helmets.

0:06:48 - Shane Smith I saw something about that there were. Some people are making a push for everybody to wear guardian helmets, like all the time.

0:06:53 - Thomas Ozbolt Yeah, yeah like during the games and it would look like, it would look like some kind of video game out there, but I guess that's not what it looks like isn't the most important thing. It's how it protects somebody.

0:07:03 - Shane Smith You know when we talk about the evolving standards of safety. When I was a kid, we didn't wear bicycle helmets. Right yeah, you know, we just did whatever. And I can remember, probably being in high school bicycle helmets were suddenly the new thing. My mom trying to tell me hey, you need to wear a helmet, I'm like yeah, whatever mom. You know, nobody's wearing helmets or anything else, you know? We didn't even have the option for any modified helmets. It was just this piece of styrofoam it seemed like, but now they're pretty common. Everybody expects to wear them when they ride the bicycles and stuff. Right, so it's-

0:07:35 - Thomas Ozbolt Yeah, even when we get my daughter on her little scooter, we got a little helmet for her. You know it's not like she's falling off or going high speeds but you know you wanna protect your kids, you wanna protect their little skulls.

0:07:46 - Shane Smith What else? Anything else you would tell us about CTEs or things to look out for in that area?

0:07:51 - Thomas Ozbolt Yeah, I mean it's a rare condition from what we know right now, and a lot of what we found out when somebody has CTE comes from some sort of volatile or you know kind of impulsive or explosive event. Is one of the ways you know you see people degenerate, but then you also see some impulse control things. So a lot of what we know comes from study of essentially like a cadaver you know somebody after they've passed and we're looking inside their brain and we're seeing the accumulation of abnormal proteins. So finding a way to figure out how to do this while someone's living and monitor that ongoing disease process in terms of a brain injury. I think that's maybe the next frontier is: how do we monitor what's going on with someone? Maybe that's that blood test?

0:08:33 - Shane Smith I was gonna say we talked about the blood test. That's what it makes me think of. But I mean, you know, the more I learn about that blood test, the more I think it's gonna become a standard procedure for, like our high end athletes, for UFC, for football, and even I could see it's something the emergency room started doing after every major car accident. Yeah, yeah, so I guess it's just more and more knowledge is what we learn right.

0:08:57 - Thomas Ozbolt Yeah, it's one of those things that you know, we might be talking here today about it and we think we are starting to get a grip on it, and a week from now we find out something that completely transforms the way we think about it. That's how new this brain science is.

0:09:10 - Shane Smith So no longer is it: You just have a concussion, though, right. That's not the right phrase anymore, because we've figured out there's just a concussion, is a ton of other things, right.

0:09:19 - Thomas Ozbolt Yeah, it's really too simplistic and it doesn't really, I think the word kind of does a traumatic brain injury, you know, almost an injustice, because concussion, we think about concuss, we think about an impact, we think about a force, and again, you don't have to have that direct blow, it can be acceleration, deceleration forces.

0:09:40 - Shane Smith All right, Thomas, thanks for being on this episode of Mind Matters. For anybody who's interested in concussions and brain injuries. Hit, like and subscribe and remember: hit the bell for notifications and if you've got a question or concern or you are in an accident or think you're suffering from a brain injury or concussion and need to talk to somebody like Thomas, just give us a call. You can call us at 980-999-9999. You can ask for Thomas and remember, if you're in pain, call Shane.

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