Photo: Repetitive Brain Injury

Repetitive Brain Injury

As mentioned in the discussion of the long-term effects of traumatic brain injury, previous head injury is a risk factor that can prolong and complicate the brain injury recovery process. An extreme consequence of having sustained multiple brain injuries is something that is frequently spoken of in the context of sports. It is a brain disease that is thought to be result of repeated concussions, and even hits that are not hard enough to cause a concussion (called sub-concussive impacts), are implicated in the disease.1 This disease is formally called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)1,2and its symptoms are similar to those experienced in traumatic brain injury, but more pronounced, and worsening over time. At its extreme, CTE can mimic Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, and it is thought to be associated with the development of these neurodegenerative diseases.2,3

Symptoms of CTE include:1,2

  • Memory loss
  • Impulsivity
  • Impaired judgment
  • Aggression
  • Depression
  • Difficulty with coordination

The potential relationship between repetitive brain injury and development of brain disease highlights the importance of identifying traumatic brain injury in women survivors of IPV, many of whom share in common with athletes their exposure to repetitive head injuries.


1T. D. Stein, V. E. Alvarez, and A. C. McKee, “Concussion in Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy,” Current Pain and Headache Reports, vol. 19, no. 10. 2015.

2R. C. Gardner and K. Yaffe, “Epidemiology of mild traumatic brain injury and neurodegenerative disease,” Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, vol. 66, no. PB. pp. 75–80, 2015.

3B. E. Gavett, R. A. Stern, R. C. Cantu, C. J. Nowinski, and A. C. McKee, “Mild traumatic brain injury: a risk factor for neurodegeneration,” Alzheimers. Res. Ther., vol. 2, no. 3, p. 18, 2010.