CTE from Abuse, Not Sports?

CTE from Abuse, Not Sports?

As a child, my husband was beaten on the head by an abusive father then, as a young adult, he went into the military and received multiple blows to the head. He has memory loss, depression, and other mental issues. Could these symptoms point to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) rather than to the basic diagnoses of depression, memory loss, etc.?


Multiple concussions or mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI) may result in the cognitive and behavioral problems as you describe. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a relatively new term that refers to a pattern of pathological findings in the brains of individuals (predominantly athletes) who sustained multiple mTBIs and manifested cognitive and behavioral problems.

Individuals who are depressed may also complain of memory difficulties. In fact, many people with mTBI are depressed, which can make an accurate diagnosis more challenging because of similar and overlapping symptoms. Currently, CTE cannot be diagnosed until after a person’s death. Therefore, it is important to provide your healthcare provider information pertaining to your history of concussions in order to most appropriately guide treatment. Treatment could include rehabilitation, counseling, and/or medication.

Posted on BrainLine April 6, 2011.

Comments (26)

Please remember, we are not able to give medical or legal advice. If you have medical concerns, please consult your doctor. All posted comments are the views and opinions of the poster only.

Have any of you been treated for PTSD, possibly have also with what you’ve endured.

I was abused as a child and had pretty serious cognitive, concentration and memory problems. These problems began to fade in my late 20's. Since my early 30's I have not had most of these issues. I have always wondered if part of the problem was frequent head injuries. However, I was also extremely depressed.

I was in a bad car wreck hit by a truck traveling 35 mph my brakes went out drove though my door . All of the things have been happen since ALL OF THEM oh god

I suffered through 20 years of severe abuse knocked out a couple times one big one where my hair fell out and a baseball sized lump on the back of my head gave me a chronic headache for 3 months. I want to donate my brain it might prove domestic violence is a serious thing. Doesn’t seem like anyone is interested

Thank you all so much for sharing your stories! I'm sure I'm not the first person to read this having never heard of others going through this. My husband almost definitely has CTE from severe childhood abuse. We met in high school and at that time he had some mood issues but his mind was amazing, like a bad boy Einstein. He began inventing in his early 20s and was decades ahead of the scientific community in studying the effects of transcranial electrical stimulation on the brain. He's still smart, but it's clear he's not as capable as he used to be. He developed an addiction problem and though treatment is helping with that he still has alot of problems with depression and suicidal thoughts and migraines that knock him down for days! Doctors and therapists have treated him and I like we must be making it up, like CTE can only happen to NFL players. It helps to know that we're not alone. Keep fighting for treatment. They can't ignore us forever.

Throughout my life from the approx. age of 7 until the age of 48, I've had multiple concussions. When I was 7, I slipped and fell while lowering the tailgate on my fathers 1957 Chevrolet pick up, hitting my head on street asphalt.

The next incident was when I was approx. 10, bicycle accident hitting my head on a steel mailbox post. I knocked myself out and received a head laceration, receiving several stitches.
From the early 1980's as a teen until present, I have been hit with a steel barbell weight in the head (knocked out/stitches), twice hit in the head intentionally with a baseball bat (one of those times, received stitches/head swelling).
The final major incident was in late 2014, I was involved in a moped accident. I received a TBI with swelling at the point of impact, minor bleeding on the brain, knocked out, 8 broken ribs, multiple areas of road rash and elbow cut open with stitches.
Soon after I was released to go home, within weeks I began having balance issues, memory issues. Depression, suicide thoughts and planning, aggression, anger. In late 2016, I was approved for SSI and medicaid.
I began going to doctors, beginning with a primary doctor. I explained my mental issues and she sent me to a neurologist. In early 2017, I was diagnosed with CTE. I never heard of CTE or knew what it was until I looked it up online and watched the movie "Concussion" with Will Smith. I was extremely depressed after that discovery. At least I finally knew what was causing these issues.

It's now 2018, my everyday life has gradually begin to get worse. I have no friends/family. I just sit in my small apt. on a daily basis staring at my laptop watching tv programs unless I have to go to a grocery store.
I don't like to go out much due to worry, paranoid feelings. My balance issues have gotten worse. Some days I wish I wouldn't wake up and on other days, I'm happy that I did. I apologize to God each and everyday, and thank God for allowing me to breath another day.
I'm here in my mind today, I realize what is going on around me and I have complete control of my day to day task. What worries me, is not realizing when my minds light switch will finally get turned off.

I know it’s been awhile but can I ask what’s the one thing someone could’ve done so you wouldn’t be alone? Or at least not feel alone?? Spouse has it in my opp stage 3. Dr now finally agree

Im so sorry. I have post concussions syndrome. Its been hell. Im in same boat as. Im very alone. I have no family or friend support its been hars. My insomnia is horrible. Idk what to do either. Im having alot of bad thoughts and rage and i dont know what. I worked hard when younger and therefore get too get food stamps or medical . i see myself myself getting dont want to be a burden anyway i was looking up and saw your message and wanted you to know you are not the only one.

Please lmk what could be done for you to make you feel less alone? My spouse definitely has it stage 3 I believe. Drs are finally agreeing after 2 years of anguish. Anything I can do to help her at least be comfortable?? I won’t leave her alone to face this but it’s been hell on earth. Thank you for sharing. I’m trying to learn all I can.

I have sustained multiple mTBIs during a lifetime of boxing and also other sports during my childhood. I also dealt with habitual beatings as a child from someone close to me and sustained a terrible TBI after being hit in the head with a blunt object during a mugging. Im in my early twenties and now suffer from depression, racing terrible thoughts, anxiety, memory loss, hearing loss, migranes, muscle tremors, dizzy spells, and aggression control issues and impulse decision making accompanied by a good few years of drug and alcohol abuse to name a few of my more concerning symptoms. I had none of these issues growing up and have been sober now for a year and still experience these symptoms every day. I have talked to my doctor and psychiatrist about this but have been told the same story, they cannot diagnose this disease until postmortem. A good story to learn from is Daniel Carciello, a former NHL player that retired early after experiencing similar issues. I will continue to fight for my health and will not give up until i find the answers i am looking for.

Can get the doctor to give me the right MRI that show CTE before death

Thank you for sharing your story. I'm desperately seeking medical help to find out what is wrong with me. Everything you wrote is basically a mirror image of my life as I struggle with memory loss, migraines, balance problems, the whole nine yards. I too was knocked unconscious many times as a child due to abuse and fighting as a young adult. My temperament has changed drastically as I've grown. I cannot be around people without having an incident of some kind. The depression, anxiety,rage, and general hatred for myself comes and goes so frequently that I don't know what to do. Every medical and mental professional that I've seen simply throw prescriptions at me and test my body when I tell them it's not my body it's my head. Sometimes the struggle is so bad I plan to end it all, but then a little glimmer of hope only to be back at square one. I've heard there is no way to 100% diagnose CTE and there is no cure as of yet. This troubles me because I want to be cured of this terrible affliction before it gets worse. Your story made me reflect on my childhood and I cried when remembering the past. I hope in the future that something in my brain can be fixed or at least diagnosed. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It is not easy for me to search out a diagnosis for myself.

Unpopular opinion but please take it under consideration: my husband presented these symptoms around 25 after similar circumstances.. quitting drinking worsened his cognition by far. We never got to solve these problems because I lost him to suicide.. be careful when you eliminate any regular chemical including caffeine nicotine and alcohol. Good luck to you.

Why is CTE possible to diagnose after a person's death, but not while they are living ?
Is it due to the insurance lobbyists that helped create laws that virtually deny contrast MRI scans ?
I am undergoing this very problem right now in the face of an insurance company that paid lobbyist over $30,000,000 in 2017 alone, just to pass laws that stifle a doctor's ability as if MRI's are a snake-oil procedure. Why do they do this ?
Because too many people with proven TBI's have won lawsuits from personal liability insurance coverage.

Because they need to slice the brain tissue and look at it under a microscope to find the tiny hemorrhages and abnormal clumps of nerves.

I'm wondering if there are any studies being done on live patients. It's my understanding CTE can only be seen after death? I was severely abused as a child. Severe is an understatement. I was knocked unconscious 2 to 3 times a week by my step mother. She beat on me daily for almost a decade. She also starved me, and locked me in a basement sometimes for days at a time. I personally think she was experimenting on me since she was a psych student for years at Wellesley College. I got taken by the state of Mass, stuck in psych floor at Boston floating hospital, then put in a bad boys school in Lancaster where I got really beat up, then I got sent to military school where I got raped and beaten some more.

I have random memory loss. I have zero empathy. Sometimes I don't even know who or where I am or how I got there. I have sudden rushes of feeling like I'm falling that can last for hours, I suddenly see flashes of light, and at same time face gets super hot, and right ear has very high pitch ringing. I have random eye twitching too.Also and completely random and uncontrollable rage. Frankly, I'm surprised I'm not a serial killer, but I'm convinced I have CTE.

Thank you for sharing because as sick as CTEmakes me I find solace that I'm not the only one ( wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy) but I have the exact symptoms as you spoke of. I thought this was a hell I was only going through ...how many more do you think joined the ranks after the football games this week?

I was savagely beaten from 4 to 11, by a drunk step mother who married my dad to put her kid in private school, while draining every penny from my dad. MA state finally took me away, stuck me in a kid gladiator, rape, fight hell group home, then I got sent to a military school where I got beaten more. I was knocked fully out at least 3 times a week, my whole childhood. And now I'm hellishly violent, and frankly want to watch the world die.

Mike, I so understand this, my situation is very similar to yours. Inly she is my Mother no step about it. Just a mean spirited woman mad at the world, took it out on my sister and I. I've been able to some relief by smoking weed when the racing brain gets too much. Lucky if I get 4 1/2 hrs of sleep every night. I get that they can only positively tell if its cte post mortem, however it seems to me many of us who suffer the same symptoms are a clear sign. I know its not exact but we have to start somewhere. CHILD ABUSE MUST STOP!!!

Me too. Sadistic older half-brother tortured me and drug dealer father made me fight other big kids. Hugged anything I could find. Migraines, explosive anger, feels like I'm possessed.

i am wondering about CTE and my mom, she recently turned 70 and up until several months ago had been very independent, her symptoms do not quite reflect dementia, she remembers things as far as memories, short term can get foggy but mainly words dont come out right(no stroke), they are different words as far as context and early on she would verbalize not being able to make the right one come out, just as now she can verbalize not knowing what is wrong and unable to make herself stop feeling scared..she has in a few months reached a point of up and down suicidal moments and can say she does not know why just that her head "wont stop", she has wondered herself if it has been due to head injuries, after always being mobile she is now(within 2 months) at a pt where she cant figure out how to stand herself up, "how do i do this, where do i put my hands?" she forced herself to stop eating, thrown herself on the floor.. as a child she often experienced having her head banged on things or on siblings from a parent, as a nurse she twice had a very large(early nursing days) surgical light fall on her head, experienced domestic abuse and since fallen and or had various accidents where her head has been injured..she was a nurse for 36 yrs, drove and walked on her own up until feb of this year, fought through two bouts with cancer and open heart surgery, i have been through a lot with her so i am not in denial were it to be dementia or alzhemiers, with that being an actual diagnosis it would sadly be some sort of relief just to have it labled, instead i get drs who look at her like she is just old and this is the way it goes, well sorry, no it doesnt, not when someone was just driving, walking and living alone 4 months ago and is now residing in a corner of my living room suddenly not able to comprehend how to stand up, sit up, know that a cough or burp is not pain or a touch is not someone hurting you..we have NO exact diagnosis from any dr.. are there any studies being currently done on not sports related CTE? it is pure mental exhaustion..

I was repeatedly struck on the top of the head from 6 months until about 14 years old (when the effect was only scalp pain). I remember being trotted off to the doctors by my abuser and being prescibed what I later learned were sugar pills. I also remember that my teacher gave me a look that I descibe as peturbed when she saw I was head shy when approached from behind. (The preferred method of of assault was delivered as a "suprise".)

Not only was it made clear years before that an appeal to my other parent would be met with no response or with additional assault (but not of the surpise type.)

I learned at 4 years of age that everyone else was not living with chronic daily headaches, and at eight years old I had my first suicidal thoughts.

I am confirmed as bipolar at 31 years old after panic attacks and for the third time in my adulthood, being unable to complete a work contract: The longest I have ever been able to keep a job is about 27 months.

I also have severe and prolonged impairment in the ability to organize, and am unable to work. My son can now 18, can finally claim me as an independent and use my additional Canadian disability tax credit since my income is lower than the personal exemption -- it isn't much of a surpise that he chose nursing as his career. According to my psychiatrist, this tax credit is rarely given to patients with mental dysfunction who are not schizophrenic.

My additional symptoms include:

memory problems, problems with judgment, reasoning, impulse control, and aggression (passive agression), remembering more than one or two things, words or numbers backwards (maximum 3 or 4 at most), short term memory problems (I wear what I can around my neck), and

Almost all of exhibited executive funtioning problems associted with learning disabilities: comprehending how much time a project will take to complete, struggling to communicate verbal ideas or details in an organized, sequential manner, memorizing and retrieving information from memory, initiating activities or tasks, retaining information while doing something with it, for example, remembering a phone number while dialing, and remembering names or anything else I can't write down immediately. Also, I was never able to see in my mind's eye what organization of my personal belongings looks like, and I am a hoarder.

On the other hand,  Into my 20's I also used to have musical perfect recall of several different "voices" instrumental or vocal, but now I have recall on only up to three at once. This allowed me to complete a music degree.

I also have the ability to remember verbal conversations under stress or other exception emotional situations with total recall of the specific words spoken by the other parties, can often recall paraphrased incidents in the near past, exact or parahrased remarks that I made, and can estimate accurately when each conversation took place when related.

I discovered I was good learning foreign languages, although I have trouble understanding anything said if not spoken clearly or logically, and could learn very well from text books and auditory language learning recordings, especially in conjunction with visual aids.

In my 30's I discovered I was very good with logical processing, and languages, and could problem solve top-down although never bottom-up. I also could remember a very large group of related facts although I made a lousy waitress. These skills to my surprise allowed me to support my child in the hey-days of computer specialists -- when I was doing well (manic), and the pay usually allowed me to coast through the depressions.

Additionally, I have partial photographic memory, which is also deteriorating with age (I am now 50), however I do not see something in front of me if it does not look as I expect it to.

I am also able to express myself well in written form, which, if my teachers are aware of my learning disabilities has allowed me to be fulfilled in various areas of education.

My only sibling exhibits most of the same problems as I do, but had much more difficulty with English, but is very good in the computer field. As a child, he was treated much worse, physically, psychologicaly, and probably sexually. Our abusing parent denied the sexual abuse, and lied about the specifics of his complaint to the police. In addition to the same problems as I have, and that his agression exhbits in the outward form (I probably learned not to respond to assault due to the continual war that continued through his childhood and that he was sent away for a few years) Also a difference is the physical symptom of CTE: I recall as the younger sibling that my brother also had a problem walking for about two or three years before age twelve, being that he dragged his left foot which was crooked. 

It is very unfortunate that insurance issues are probably what currently dictate which living people are selected for research, and children at risk are not.

How is everyone who posted doing?
I relate so much to the stories here and ache for each of you, yet I'm also relieved to know there are others who wonder if they have CTE from childhood battery. My mom got it too, and I got beaten by my father from age 2 to early 20's, especially when I'd try to protect her. He'd turn his rage to me, and she would let him. On my 3rd birthday, he banged me against the wall so hard I blacked out because he was trying to get me to stop crying when he startled me by throwing a ladle of hot food at my mom. I remember hundreds of head beatings from early childhood, and I always worried about my brain even at that young age. I could feel it like a bean bag bouncing around in my skull and I was afraid it would split open. I hated the way my teeth would rattle so loudly inside their sockets. My ears took it really bad too, and now I have old-age hearing loss at age 50. My mom has four types of dementia and hearing loss, but it all started for her in her 70s. I've been facing cognitive decline for about five years and didn't know why. Apparently, CTE from childhood uses up our cognitive reserves so that the neurodegeneration we would face in our elderly years can hit us in middle age. I feel bitter, but mostly in shock. I'm in a stressful marriage that has cost me sleep and kept me up with worry because my spouse doesn't know how to "adult" and I've felt my cognitive capacity shrinking. Our sons are sweet but kinda useless like dad. My brain has had to keep track of stuff for all of them, and like anonymous here, I've had a photographic memory (like my mom did) and could replay actual conversations like a video. I've been too busy looking after everyone else, so over the years, my childhood battery didn't get addressed even though I suspected I had PTSD. I always kept hearing that emotional abuse is more serious than physical abuse, and the few people I told would say, "at least he didn't rape you." There was sexual humiliation, but not rape. But it's the head beatings I lament. Then, not sleeping when I'd stay up all night puzzling over how to balance our finances while my husband slept. I'm an English professor, but it takes me forever to prep and grade, so I'd be up all night then go in to teach the next day. Rinse and repeat. No support at home. Then, when COVID hit, I thought it would be easier working from home, but I started to get vertigo. Then, sudden hearing loss and tinnitus that hasn't stopped since Oct. 11th. I read these are risk factors for Alzheimer's and worried I had early-onset, but after taking a symptom and family history, the doctor wants an MRI and suggested CTE. I looked it up and am devastated that even sub-concussive episodes from childhood can affect you later on. I am in denial about the life expectancy I read for this disorder. Also, angry that they can't diagnose before death. It could be used to educate communities and families about the effects of childhood battery. I'd like to do something about this, but I don't even know how long I'll have my mind. Peace and love to all you angels who have suffered here.

This is so sad. Literally, my childhood. Glad to hear you are well, hope your brother gets help.

In 1968, as a boy 9 years young, I was struck by my fourth grade teacher on the head for punishment."It's what they did back then". After the impact sent me across the desks, he picked me up by the neck and shook me.The damages lasted my entire life with neck and head pain, concentration problems, and troubled school/career/relationships. I could identify with the comment posted and would like to share my experience, maybe help others to gain some insight, and possibly recover from the damages. Though I have no legal recourse I feel the teachers actions, and the Cajon Valley Union School District were criminally liable.They went above and beyond normal District disciplinary policies "back then", and I suffer today. John B. San Diego

Hi Anonymous, in 1964, my 4th grade English teacher would walk straight to me, first thing, and ask to see my homework. If I didn’t have it and usually didn’t because of what followed would traumatize and paralyze me enough to not remember what happened during the rest of the class, is that he would lift me up by my hair, drag me to the back of the classroom and push my head into the wall, multiple times, each time asking me why I didn’t have my homework assignment done. That year, I developed severe nauseous headaches, became withdrawn, started having tics and twitches. I have suffered ever since soon after that, from severe depression, lack of self-esteem, ADHD tendencies, all inviting bullying from fellow kids and subject to physical violence from “kids, who were just being kids.” The damage has been long lasting. I am now in my 60s and still hate myself and my life, I have insomnia, and thoughts that race through my mind, mostly anger at having let all this happen to me, followed by hatred of the way I am. I can’t recall a day in my life where I liked something about myself. I don’t know why, but I just can’t think of ending my life, even though the thought has been ever-present. I just want to keep on breathing, I feel paralyzed, but want to keep breathing, waiting for something to change for the better. I hope you, and everyone here, fights hard to overcome these demons.