CTE or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy is usually confirmed after the death of an individual by autopsy. Recently PET scans have been used for the earlier detection of Tau plaques in specific areas of the brain which will support intervention for the cognitive, behavioral and physical symptoms which characterize CTE. People who experience multiple concussions like NFL football and NHL hockey players have suffered from debilitating psychological symptoms, behavioral changes and diminished physical capacities as they have left their sports careers. Several high visibility sports figures like Junior Seau, Dave Duerson and others have brought CTE to the public eye following their deaths by suicide. It was Mike Webster’s brain that led Dr. Bennet Omalu to first identify CTE as an identifiable brain condition characterized by Tau protein tangles effecting brain function.
The use of PET scan technology in the earlier phases of the disease can allow for interventions that can allow people with CTE to address functional and psychological problems in a more effective way by taking away some of the guessing associated with the diagnosis of CTE.
Certainly, prevention of CTE is a better outcome, but the use of PET technology is important to those individuals who have experienced multiple concussions or mild brain injuries and experiencing problems as they age to allow clinicians to identify the problem and initiate treatment and rehabilitation.