In the last decade we've begun to hear more about the
 long-term effects of concussions and head injuries on athletes.

With the
 startling increase of erratic and deteriorating mental conditions in athletes, 
like those that led to the suicides of high-profile athletes like the
 NFL's Andre Waters and Dave Duerson and University of Pennsylvania's Owen 
Thomas, doctors and athletes are searching for possible
 links between brain injuries and dementia. Here's a rundown on what we know so far, 
and what preventative measures can be taken.

What is Boxer's

Boxer's Dementia, more commonly referred to as chronic
 traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and also known as dementia pugilistica, is caused by repeated concussive and 
sub-concussive injuries to the head, such as those frequently suffered by
boxers and football players.

These repeated head traumas can result in neuronal
 death, the loss of communication between nerve cells, the degeneration of brain
tissue and the build up of tau protein. Because CTE is a slowly progressive degenerative
 disease, the severity of its symptoms will increase in time, beginning with 
symptoms such as impaired concentration, memory loss and occasional dizziness
 and headaches; and progressing to more severe symptoms such as poor judgment, tremors,
 poor impulse control, mood disorders and vertigo.

Complicated Diagnosis

Though research into the link
 between boxers and dementia began in the 1920s, it has recently been widened to 
include all contact sports with a high occurrence of repeated head trauma.

One of the most troubling aspects of the disease is that there 
are no standardized diagnostic tools known to indicate the presence of CTE, and
 because the symptoms occur progressively—often during middle age, years after 
the brain trauma has been sustained—it is difficult to detect before the 
person becomes symptomatic.

However, studies postulate that occurrences of CTE may be affected by the chosen sport, duration of
career and age when injuries occurred. Researchers are also
investigating whether a genetic predisposition is a factor.

The Stats


Because research on CTE is still in its early stages, there
 are no known methods of reversing or halting its progression. However, the 
increase in knowledge of the impact brain injuries can have can help raise
 sport equipment standards to a safer level.

Because of CTE research, some doctors
 are also more cautious about releasing athletes who have suffered head
 injuries back into competitive play, and are developing stricter recovery 
timelines for concussed players.

In some sports, officials can also rethink or 
implement new or stricter penalties for intentional plays that will cause
significant head injuries. However, the best method of prevention is to
 eliminate injuries to the head.