Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a neurodegenerative syndrome that can develop from repeated impacts to the brain. CTE has been studied in sports such as football and boxing, where athletes develop a long-term pattern of symptoms that are not unlike those of Alzheimer's syndrome.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has become a common diagnosis in our returning soldiers, but a recent case study suggests that the PTSD may actually be a type of CTE that develops after repeat exposures to blast explosions. In this case study, a soldier who was diagnosed with PTSD committed suicide not long after an honorable discharge. The autopsy of his brain found damage that was surprisingly indicative of CTE.
This case study is important because it may help re-direct the diagnostic guidelines for returning soldiers. It may also help researchers understand the pathology of repeated exposure to blast explosions, as well as the pathology and long-term effects of CTE.
Omalu B, Hammers JL, Bailes J, et al. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy in an Iraqi war veteran with post traumatic stress disorder who committed suicide. Neurosurgical Focus. (November 2011).