Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health believe that many football players are being misdiagnosed with a brain condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. New Mexico residents should know that CTE, which is caused by continual trauma to the head, cannot be correctly diagnosed until after one dies. There are also no treatments for it.
Researchers looked at nearly 4,000 former NFL players who had played from 1960 or later: in other words, from the year when the players started to wear hard plastic helmets and not soft leather ones. Among the players, 3% had been diagnosed with CTE. The most common symptoms among these players were difficulty concentrating, periods of forgetfulness and mood changes.
Those diagnosed with CTE were more likely to have one or more of the following: sleep apnea, depression, abnormal cholesterol, low testosterone, hypertension, obesity and heart disease. They were likelier to be using prescription pain medications, too. The problem is that the cognitive symptoms of CTE, which range from depression and anxiety to aggression, are similar to those of depression, hypertension, obesity, diabetes and other conditions.
There is hope, though, as researchers are analyzing how PET scans and spinal fluid analyses, among other methods, might detect CTE in those still living. Medical providers should understand, though, what the consequences of a CTE diagnosis can be.
A failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis can lead to unnecessary treatments and additional harm. In the case of CTE, which cannot be treated, it can cause patients to fall into depression or suicidal thoughts and neglect their health. Many diagnostic errors are the result of negligence and so may form the basis for a malpractice claim. Victims, or their family if victims die, may pursue a claim with legal assistance in order to be compensated for their medical expenses, emotional trauma and more.