Getting from concussions to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopahy

The movie Concussion, which is based on a true story event, showed Dr Bennet Omalu battling the football league to raise public awareness of his findings of severe brain damage condition called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). According to Dr Omalu’s findings, the condition is due to sustained long-term effects of repeated blows to the head.

Dr Roy Koh, a Neurosurgeon based at Mount Alvernia Hospital further explained. “As a neurosurgeon, I have seen many patients suffering from concussions after a traumatic impact to the head, either from sports, like rugby, or an accident like a road traffic accident. However to be classed as CTE, it requires multiple concussions of a period of time.”

Patients who have undergone multiple repeated concussions will show “evidence of increased neurological problems, like poor memory, depression, learning difficulties,” according to Dr Koh.

While the movie focused on the condition specifically arising from a full contact sport like American football, could it happen to all other contact sports like mixed martial arts (MMA), which is very getting popular among youths in Singapore?

“It is not possible to determine the exact prevalence for CTE in Singapore as there is no standardised management or specialist centre for management of this condition currently in this country,” Dr Koh explained.

“Furthermore, these studies were mainly based in the US on their football players, like those in the National Football League or college football. If you have seen those games you would understand that their version of football is significantly more violent than even our rugby games.” he added.

Although concussion as defined by the Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology is a trauma-induced alteration in mental status, the player may or may not experience loss of consciousness.

Even so, the best advice is still prevention, Dr Koh said. “Use of sport specific helmets may reduce
the incidence of concussion. And anyone who has suffered a concussion while in the game, should be removed from play, and be examined by a doctor,” he added.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE for short is not a fictional name of a medical condition in the movie. It is recognised as a medical name today, however it is part of a bigger spectrum of injuries known as traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

Article contributed by Dr Roy Koh, an accredited doctor at Mount Alvernia Hospital.

FeM Surgery @ Alvernia
Mount Alvernia Hospital, Medical Centre D #07-54

This article is taken from our My Alvernia Magazine Issue #26. Click here to read the issue on our website or on Magzter.