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Kathy Marshack News

The Heartbreaking Link Between CTE and Empathy Dysfunction

Wednesday, February 28, 2018


Link between CTE and Empathy DysfunctionI have read countless stories of professional, college and even high school athletes struck down by chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Athletes in all contact sports—football, hockey, soccer, and baseball—are being diagnosed with CTE. But a new article still caught my eye on CNN - Former NFLers call for end to tackle football for kids.

Several former NFL players are working with the Concussion Legacy Foundation to support a new initiative, Flag Football Under 14, that pushes for no tackle football until 14. In the article, one player, who has been diagnosed with dementia and probable CTE, made a heartfelt plea to parents, “I beg of you, all parents to please don't let your children play football until high school. I made the mistake starting tackle football at 9 years old. Now, CTE has taken my life away. Youth tackle football is all risk with no reward."

The article went on to discuss something that many people misunderstand when it comes to CTE. People are under the impression that concussions are what lead to the disorder. However, CTE is actually much more likely to be found in soccer players and other athletes exposed to repetitive minor hits. Instead of pointing specifically to “concussion” as the cause, this is called Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (or Mild TBI). As if there is anything mild about CTE.

Since I’ve been writing my new book on empathy dysfunction, I found research studies on empathy disorders and mild traumatic head injuries that made the connection between TBI and loss of empathy quite clear. It makes sense since the circuits responsible for empathy are a complex system located throughout the brain.

I went through this with my own daughter who played soccer. At 23 she assaulted me, knocking me across the room into a plate glass door. I believe that brain trauma explains the mood swings, the paranoia, and the assaultive behavior.

I don’t want any other parent to have to stand by and see their child suffer from traumatic brain injury. Do your research before putting your child in a sport that could have long-term negative consequences. Some worse than you could ever have imagined!

Are you wondering whether you’re dealing with a family member, friend, co-worker or neighbor with severe empathy dysfunction? My upcoming book, “When Empathy Fails – How to stop those hell-bent on destroying you,” delves into Empathy Disorders and offers advice on how you can protect yourself from people who can’t or won’t demonstrate empathy. You can read the first chapter here.



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