Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

First coined as the “punch drunk syndrome” in the 1920s by Dr. Harrison Martland when he observed it in professional boxers, the disorder had many names over the years and is now termed chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Much research work is still being done to understand the mechanism of how the neurodegenerative disorder develops but repetitive head trauma is identified as a constant among the cases.

CTE can only be definitely diagnosed via postmortem examination and while in vivo diagnostic testing for the disorder is currently being developed, researchers have listed symptoms of the disorder which include irritability, aggression, speech and language difficulties, motor impairment, trouble swallowing, vision and focusing problems, olfactory problems (trouble with sense of smell), and dementia.

According to the paper of Yi et al, it is estimated that there are about 1.6 to 3.8 million concussions per year in the United States or about 10% of all head and spinal cord injury cases. This figure was based on surveys on incidence of sport-related concussions that is estimated to affect between five to eight events per 1,000 player hours.

Conventional Treatment

Because the exact cause and mechanism of the disorder is not yet fully understood, there is still no available treatment for CTE. The current approach is to prevent head injuries and to address the symptoms with available therapies. Mood changes are addressed with cognitive behavioral activity while memory problems are addressed with memory training exercises. On the other hand, headaches are treated with craniosacral therapy, massage, acupuncture, or medications.

CTE and Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana not only relieves pain, but it also serves as a neuroprotectant, protecting the brain from injuries and environmental dangers. There are ongoing studies on the effectivity of medical marijuana on CTE, but they are still very limited.

The account of former Baltimore Ravens football player advocate Eugene Monroe tells about the potential of treating some symptoms of the disorder  with the use of medical marijuana. According to Monroe, medical marijuana has helped him manage the pain he experiences on almost a daily basis. Prior to taking medical marijuana, the retired football player was taking oxycodone to manage pain. However, he started to observe that he was experiencing not only gastrointestinal issues, but it started to slightly affect his mind as well. Oxycodone is a prescription opiate analgesic which is prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain.

Monroe also shared that he takes medical marijuana in various forms such as topical creams or edibles. He added that these forms are available in cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) formulations. CBD gives the therapeutic benefits of medical marijuana and are non-psychoactive. Meanwhile, THC is effective for promoting sleep without any addictive side effects.