Every January, we observe Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) Awareness Month — a time dedicated to shedding light on the devastating effects of repetitive head trauma.
This annual event gained momentum in 2015, when Will Smith starred in the movie “Concussion.” Smith plays Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist who discovers a mysterious Alzheimer’s-like brain disease in former NFL players. The movie brought the condition to the forefront of public consciousness, sparking discussions about the dangers of contact sports and repetitive head injuries.
Today, CTE Awareness Month serves as a vital platform to educate, advocate, and raise awareness about this silent epidemic. In this article, we’ll share a definition of CTE, how January came to be CTE Awareness Month, and some ways that you can participate in this event.
CTE is a degenerative brain condition linked to repeated head injuries or concussions. These injuries trigger the accumulation of an abnormal protein called tau in the brain, leading to long-term cognitive, behavioral, and mood-related symptoms. These symptoms can include memory loss, confusion, depression, aggression, and difficulty with impulse control.
Although CTE is commonly seen in football players and other athletes, it can also affect military veterans or anyone exposed to repetitive head trauma. CTE can only be definitively diagnosed postmortem through a brain autopsy. This means that people with CTE may have difficulty receiving appropriate support during their lifetime. Researchers are working on developing new advanced imaging techniques (such as PET scans and MRIs) and biomarker tests that may help in diagnosing CTE in living individuals.
While the movie “Concussion” kicked off important discussions about preventing sports-related head injuries, ongoing events like CTE Awareness Month are crucial to improve awareness, advance research, and ensure that individuals with CTE receive the care and support they need.
These awareness efforts have scored a number of big wins for the CTE community. Various sports organizations and leagues, including the NFL, have implemented rule changes aimed at reducing head injuries. These include stricter concussion protocols, equipment improvements, and increased education about the risks of head trauma.
There have also been legislative and policy initiatives focused on protecting athletes, particularly young athletes, from head injuries. Today, all 50 states have some form of legislation regarding sports-related concussions.
Individuals and organizations — including disability service agencies — play a pivotal role in raising awareness, educating their communities, and advocating for preventive measures against CTE. Here are five ways you can participate in CTE Awareness Month this year:
Participating in CTE Awareness month can be as simple as handing out brochures or pamphlets about CTE. The Patrick Risha CTE Awareness Foundation provides two convenient and accessible brochures for learning about CTE. Share these brochures in your office, or distribute them out to local schools, sports facilities, and doctor’s offices to raise awareness.
In addition to sharing printed materials, use your social media platforms to share informative content, personal stories, and statistics about CTE. You can find lots of CTE graphics and shareables here. Be sure to use the hashtag #CTEawareness to expand your post’s reach and spread awareness effectively.
Thanks to CTE advocacy efforts, there are now legal protections in place for student athletes around the country. However, the scope of these laws varies greatly and more work is needed to stop CTE.
One way to join these ongoing advocacy efforts is by signing this letter urging the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to allocate more resources and attention to research, prevention, and support for individuals affected by this condition.
CTE Awareness Month is a great time to feature art created by individuals with CTE and other brain injuries. Invite artists to create pieces that depict their own experiences or the impact of brain injury on individuals and the community. Consider showcasing the artwork in your offices, on your website, and on social media.
Host a screening of the movie “Concussion”. To take it even further, you can then hold a panel discussion and pass the mic to brain injury experts, athletes, and advocates to learn more about the topic of CTE from all different angles.
While January is recognized as CTE Awareness Month, awareness and advocacy efforts are ongoing throughout the year. For more disability-related events and observances you can participate in all year round, download our free Disability Events Calendar!
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