Diagnosing CTE

As chronic traumatic encephalopathy shares many features with other neurodegenerative conditions, there's currently no test available to diagnose the condition.

A diagnosis is usually based on a history of participating in contact sports, symptoms and clinical features.

Your GP will talk to you about the problems you're experiencing and may ask you to perform some simple mental or physical tasks, such as moving or walking around, to help with the diagnosis.

Your GP may refer you to a specialist memory assessment service, staffed by experts in diagnosing, caring for and advising people with dementia, and their families.

Memory clinic staff can listen to your concerns, assess your skills and, if necessary, arrange further tests to rule out other conditions.

Currently, the most reliable way of confirming a diagnosis of chronic traumatic encephalopathy is to examine a person's brain during an autopsy (an examination of the body after death) for certain changes.

These changes may not show up on routine brain scans or may occur in other conditions, which is why it can be difficult to confirm a diagnosis in life.

Research has found that the changes in the brain associated with chronic traumatic encephalopathy are differentfrom those seen in Alzheimer's disease.

However, both conditions are associated with shrinking of the brain (atrophy) and the presence of neurofibrillary tangles that contain a protein called tau.

The most widely used test used for investigating neurodegenerative disorders is a magnetic resonance image (MRI) scan or computerised tomography (CT) scan .

Research is ongoing to determine whether other brain imaging techniques will be able to help diagnose chronic traumatic encephalopathy in the future.

You mayalsosee a speech and language therapist or occupational therapist .

Although many head injuries are difficult to predict or avoid, there are ways to reduce your risk.

For example:

  • wearing the recommended protective equipment during a contact sport
  • following your doctor's recommendations about returning to play after concussion
  • making sure any contact sport you or your child are taking part in is supervised by a properly qualified and trained person
  • seeking medical advice if any symptoms of a previous head injury return

Read about:

preventing minor head injuries

preventing concussion

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 21 Dec 2018