Distinguishing early stage chronic traumatic encephalopathy from persistent post-concussion syndrome
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BACKGROUND: Sports-related head trauma has become a major public health concern with significant consequences including persistent post-concussion syndrome (pPCS) and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). pPCS is a condition where symptoms of single concussion persist years beyond the initial injury. CTE has been characterized as a condition with insidious onset following a latent period after substantial exposure to repetitive head impacts (RHI). Timing of symptom onset usually distinguishes these conditions, however in certain clinical situations a definitive diagnosis is not always clear. For these situations, a measurable distinguishing variable is necessary. LITERATURE REVIEW: Concussions are the most common form of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and are associated with a variety of neurological symptoms that usually resolve within weeks. Post-concussion syndrome (PCS) refers to cases where symptoms continue months beyond this window, and pPCS is defined as symptoms continuing over years. These conditions are temporally related single concussive events. CTE is the hallmark condition related to RHI and remains difficult to fully characterize as it currently can only be diagnosed post-mortem. Clinical features of CTE are similar to those of pPCS with notable behavioral/mood symptoms in its earliest stages, and progression to severe cognitive decline over time. Current research has shown executive dysfunction to be a common impairment among these conditions. The difference in level of dysfunction between them, if one exists, is yet to be measured. PROPOSED PROJECT: A cross-sectional analysis of executive function in four groups. A control without history of mTBI or football exposure (Non-Football – pPCS), a second control of asymptomatic subjects with football exposure (Football – pPCS), a group of pPCS patients with non-athletic mTBI history (Non-Football + pPCS), and a group of pPCS patients with football exposure (Football + pPCS). Executive functioning will be evaluated using the BRIEF-A assessment. Results will be compared to determine if significant differences in executive functioning exist between the groups. CONCLUSIONS: With previous studies showing a correlation between CTE pathological stage, worsening executive function, and increased RHI exposure, further investigation into using executive function as a distinguishing variable between early stage CTE and pPCS is warranted. SIGNIFICANCE: Results of this study, if significant, could be applied clinically to assess risk of early stage CTE in athletes with prolonged post-concussion symptoms. If results are not significant, they may still be utilized for a better understanding of the effects of isolated mTBIs and RHI on executive functioning, and provide valuable information for ongoing longitudinal studies.