Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy: A Glimpse into the Disease That Drove Phillip Adams to Murder

A post-mortem examination of Phillip Adams, a former NFL player and the perpetrator of the shooting last April, revealed that he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) a neurodegenerative disease. But how does this condition develop? What are the symptoms of this disease?

NFL Players

NFL Players

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In April 2021, former football player Phillip Adams killed six people in the US before committing suicide. On 14 December, neuropathologists from Boston University provided facts that may shed light on what may have led to the shooting. They performed an autopsy on the man’s brain and found that the perpetrator suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy: A glimpse into the disease that drove Phillip Adams to murder

According to medical experts, the former NFL player had unusually severe brain damage. “Phillip Adams had an unusually large amount of pathology related to the frontal cortex,” said Ann McKee, director of the university’s CTE Center. The player’s family said he had suffered “multiple concussions” during his career.

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A neurodegenerative disease that is affecting athletes

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a condition that can affect athletes who play contact sports (rugby, football or boxing) or people who have been repeatedly hit on the head. This neurodegenerative condition is caused by repeated head trauma.

“Experts do not yet know why only some people with repetitive head trauma develop chronic traumatic encephalopathy and how much trauma and force it takes to trigger the disease. About 3% of athletes who suffer multiple concussions (even seemingly mild ones) develop chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

A study published in 2017 in the journal JAMA Network linked repeated head injuries in football players to the development of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. For this work, researchers analyzed brain tissue from 202 deceased players. They found that 110 NFL athletes were affected by this neurodegenerative disease. “We hope to raise awareness of this disease so that players understand the risks associated with playing contact sports. “Phillip is not the first to fight this disease and he won’t be the last,” said Phillip Adams’ family.

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Changes in mood and behavior

Patients with chronic traumatic encephalopathy can experience changes in mood (depression, irritability, suicidal thoughts) and behavior (aggression, impulsivity). This neurodegenerative disease is also manifested by dementia and changes in cognitive function, i.e. patients lose memory and may become distracted, and confused. Muscle problems may also occur in this disease. In some people, these clinical signs only appear after several years.

What are the treatment options for CTE?

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy cannot be definitively identified in living patients, which makes it difficult to detect and diagnose. There is currently no specific treatment for the disease. However, psychological support and medication such as antidepressants can be prescribed to relieve symptoms.

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Some measures may prevent the development of this neurodegenerative pathology. For instance, it would be very wise that people who have suffered a concussion should rest and refrain from sports or other risky activities for a certain period of time.


Clinicopathological Evaluation of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in Players of American Football



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