The Concussion Legacy Foundation's mission is to support athletes, Veterans, and all affected by concussions and CTE; achieve smarter sports and safer athletes through education and innovation; and to End CTE through prevention and research.
I have treated athletes young and old at skill levels ranging from students to professionals. My experience with head injuries began on local playing fields in the 1970s, when I served as a team physician for Acton High School football. In 1986 I wrote an article that described the first return-to-play guidelines, and since then I have authored more than 400 publications. My commitment to treating concussions continues today as the medical director and director of clinical research at the Cantu Concussion Center here at Emerson Hospital. In addition, I am a clinical professor of neurology and neurosurgery and co-founder of the CTE Center at Boston University School of Medicine.
Christopher John Nowinski is a former American professional wrestler with World Wrestling Entertainment, subsequently author, co-founder and CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, co-founder of the Boston University CTE Center.
In CTE, a protein called Tau forms clumps that slowly spread throughout the brain, killing brain cells. CTE has been seen in people as young as 17, but symptoms do not generally begin appearing until years after the onset of head impacts.
Early symptoms of CTE usually appear in a patients’ late 20s or 30s, and affect a patients’ mood and behavior. Some common changes seen include impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and paranoia.
As the disease progresses, some patients may experience problems with thinking and memory, including memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, and eventually progressive dementia. Cognitive symptoms tend to appear later than mood and behavioral symptoms, and generally first appear in a patient’s 40s or 50s. Patients may exhibit one or both symptom clusters. In some cases, symptoms worsen with time (even if the patient suffers no additional head impacts). In other cases, symptoms may be stable for years before worsening.
Led by Dr. Ann McKee, the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank is a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Boston University and the Concussion Legacy Foundation, and housed at the VA Boston Healthcare System, is the largest Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) brain bank in the world. The numbers are staggering – more than 640 brains donated, nearly 400 confirmed cases of the neurodegenerative disease CTE, 110 of 111 former NFL players diagnosed with CTE. The VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank has created an undeniable body of evidence that repetitive brain trauma can lead to CTE.