Before Dave Mirra tragically committed suicide, he lived a life of big air and big crashes. However, did the BMX legend’s extreme lifestyle cause him to develop the destructive CTE brain disorder? Here are 5 important things to know about chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
Dave Mirra, 41, has left the sports world in mourning, as the BMX superstar killed himself in Greenville, North Carolina, on Feb. 4. The town’s mayor suggested that Dave’s extreme career might have resulted in CTE, a condition associated with athletes who commit suicide. As his family continues to look for answers, learn more about the disorder that may have led to Dave’s death.
1. CTE used to have a cute name – but it’s a horrific disorder.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, is a “progressive degenerative disease in the brain.” It used to be called “dementia puglistica,” or “punch drunk,” since it was something often associated with boxers. CTE is the result of a build-up of the abnormal protein, tau, which slowly kills brains cells, reports the Concussion Foundation.
2. Concussions and CTE’s are not the same, but they are related.
A concussion is a brain injury resulting from a blow to a head. If someone gets a concussion, it doesn’t automatically mean they’ll get CTE, but the two are linked, according to CNN. Scientists believe CTE is a result of “repeated, sub-concussive, hits to the head.” Each of these traumatic hits increases the tau protein, which thus increases the chance of developing CTE.
3. There are a number of terrifying symptoms.
Symptoms usually begin 8-10 years after experiencing repetitive, mild traumatic brain injury. People who suffer from CTE experience memory loss, impaired judgment, troubles with impulse control, depression and dementia, reports the International Business Times.
4. There is no cure CTE and it is nearly impossible to diagnose.
Despite the advances in medical science, there is no cure for CTE, according to the Mayo Clinic. There’s also no definite test for CTE while people are alive. The only way to properly identify if a person has the disorder is by inspecting their brain tissue, and right now, that can only be done during an autopsy.
5. The condition is rampant among professional athletes.
CTE is mainly associated with professional football players. A list of deceased NFL players with CTE includes Junior Seau, Tom McHale, Terry Long and even Frank Gifford. Ice hockey players are also prone to getting CTE, as are professional wrestlers. In 2007, Chris Benoit infamously killed his wife and his son before committing suicide. The autopsy on 40-year-old Chris revealed he had the brain of an 85-year-old Alzheimer’s patient. Will Dave Mirra’s autopsy reveal the same results?
Our thoughts continue to go out to Dave and his family during this heartbreaking time.