Newswise — EVANSTON, Ill. --- With the recent posthumous examination of former NFL player Aaron Hernandez uncovering a severe case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), Northwestern University experts are available to discuss the disease, concussions and recovery.

Alan Shepard is a Northwestern Medicine general neurologist and a clinical associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine with 24 years in practice. He has seen many patients with concussion and post-concussion syndrome, and he was the team neurologist for a high school football team in Chicago.

Quote from Shepard

“This latest story about Aaron Hernandez confirms the potential tragic outcomes of CTE, as well as the frequency with which we are seeing this condition. The problem is that we as yet do not have a threshold as to how many years of trauma in football and other sports are necessary to initiate the cascade of events that result in CTE. Mr. Hernandez was in his 20s, and he had a severe case. Others are in their 50s and have a milder degree. The damage may begin in college or as early as high school, in some people, and as yet we are unable, and may never be able, to weed out those who are at increased risk in developing this condition.”

Shepard can be reached at [email protected]

Nina Kraus, the Hugh Knowles Professor in Northwestern’s School of Communication and director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, is the lead author of a recent study that identified a method for reliably diagnosing concussions and tracking recovery.

Her research shows the key to diagnosing concussions lies in the brain’s ability to process sound. A biological marker in the auditory system could take the ambiguity and controversy out of diagnosing concussions. Her paper, titled Auditory biological marker of concussion in children, was published in the journal Nature, Scientific Reports. See also: Kraus et al. (2017) The neural legacy of a single concussion. Neuroscience Letters. 646: 21-23.

Quote from Kraus 

“With CTE, we are facing a disease that is strongly correlated with participation in contact sports, but can be caused by contact that, in severity, falls short of a concussion diagnosis. And, it cannot be definitively diagnosed until an individual dies. This combination represents a perfect storm of uncertainty. We must work toward achieving player safety, and we must find effective ways to diagnose CTE in its earliest stages so that former players, if diagnosed, can take rehabilitative steps now so that they can live full lives spared from the perils of CTE.”

Kraus can be reached at 847-491-3181 and [email protected]

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