Dr. Chau Breaks Down the Effects of CTE and Mental Health

November 1, 2017 Providence Health Team

Recently, Dr. Clayton Chau, with St. Joseph Hoag Health, appeared on a weekly sports radio show, The Morning After with Nick Hamilton on Dash Radio in Los Angeles. Host Nick Hamilton and co-host James Allen discussed the true effects of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).

Nick and Dr. Chau also discussed the importance of mental health for athletes as it relates to chronic pain, steroid, and pain pill use along with lifetime career expectancy, added pressure and stress. We also discussed the healing effects of medical marijuana.

We all have heard the stories of former NFL players battling CTE and the effects of it. However, it's not just limited to football – anyone who's played contact sports for a long period time or have suffered multiple concussions can be diagnosed with CTE.

“CTE is the result of multiple concussions. It was found in the mid-1990s due to research," Dr. Chau explained. "Not just football players suffer from this condition, but people who play soccer. We also found that people in the military suffer from this condition also. Even those who are involved in boxing and mixed martial arts.”

CTE has been seen in people as young as 17 years of age, but symptoms generally do not begin to appear until years after the head impacts.

Early symptoms usually appear in a patient’s late 20s or 30s and affect a patient’s mood and behavior. Some common symptoms include impulse control problems, aggression, depression and paranoia. As CTE progresses, some people may experience problems with brain functions, including memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment and eventually progressive dementia. Mood and behavioral symptoms tend to appear first, with cognitive symptoms appearing later. In some cases, symptoms worsen with time and in other cases, symptoms may be stables for long periods—up to years at a time—before worsening.

Lately, many players in pro sports have been advocating for medical marijuana to be used instead of pain medication to help heal from injuries.

“Medical marijuana is very controversial. It also causes a chemical imbalance which opens the door for brain injuries and can put people at risk for psychotic symptoms. We also found that long-term use of marijuana can cause anxiety.”

Nick and Dr. Chau also discussed how many people are starting to embrace mental health awareness in themselves or others; however, we still have a long way to go in the acceptance of mental health issues as a society, according to Dr. Chau.

Listen to the show here »

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