Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a neurodegenerative condition, much like Alzheimer's disease and frontotemporal dementia. However, CTE is associated with repetitive trauma, which can occur through contact sports or high-risk professions. Although there is no cure, there are steps you can take to slow cognitive decline if you are at risk for CTE.
Take Head Injuries Seriously
Although much of the emphasis surrounding CTE has focused on professional football, the risk is high with contact sports of any kind and at any age. High-risk professions, such as the military and law enforcement are also concerning. Many coaches and training staff are being more stringent about concussion protocols and recovery periods after a head injury has occurred. However, what you do off the field or at home is equally important in your recovery. You should not engage in activities that increase your risk of a subsequent head injury. Be assertive if you feel like you are not well enough to return back to your sport or job.
Mental and physical rest is important in the days and weeks following a head injury. But, even if you are not recovering from a head injury, you should work hard to keep your brain sharp. With such a heavy emphasis on technology, many simple tasks that can be used to help you stay mentally sharp can fall by the wayside.
For example, if you are interested in an online news article, read the article as opposed to watching the video. This will help you maintain or improve your language and comprehension skills. Logic puzzles and trivia games are also ways to keep your mind engaged. Challenge yourself to engage in other tasks that utilize different cognitive skills. Tasks that involve working with your hands, such as building models or furniture, help with spatial skills and hand-eye coordination.
Plan For Post-Retirement
Even if your previous employment was lucrative enough to make lounging on the beach after retirement a reality, it is not a good idea. After you retire from a high-risk profession or sport, your retirement should include an activity you enjoy, but which also keeps you mentally engaged. You may notice that many professional athletes become commentators, analysts and coaches for their favorite sport after their careers have ended. This requires them to prepare for games, think on their feet and otherwise remain mentally engaged long after their career is over.
Another helpful post-retirement endeavor is going back to school, even as a non-degree seeking student, or teaching what you love. Since there are many opportunities to teach adults without having a graduate degree or formal training, you may want to become an educator. Teaching non-degree classes typically requires experience in the area, either through your previous employment or education.
Although there is no brain condition treatment for CTE, there are ways to make your odds more favorable. Minimizing head injuries and engaging in constant mental stimulation may help slow cognitive decline.