Health Tech World spoke to the CEO of Re:Cognition Health about its use of DTI imaging to diagnose rugby players with CTE.
By using the most detailed DTI imaging technique with MRI scanning to support the clinical assessment of potential brain damage, it has been possible to improve the probability of identifying rugby players with mild, chronic, traumatic encephalopathy CTE.
CTE is a type of progressive brain disease caused by repeated blows to the head and concussions. This type of brain injury formally acknowledged, first, by the NFL in American football players, but is being increasingly associated with professional rugby and football players.
CTE leads to a progressive neurodegenerative disease, resulting in dementia with related physical and cognitive symptoms, such as memory problems, a decline in thinking ability, confusion, aggression, depression and changes in personality; all of which can be debilitating and life-changing for those affected.
Using DTI (diffusion tensor imaging) scans of the brain, Re:Cognition Health has been able to identify objective evidence of specific structural damage in the brain.
CEO Dr Emer MacSweeney said: “The current situation is that CTE goes largely unrecognised until symptoms are quite advanced. The reason for that is because the types of symptoms that develop are cognitive decline and subtle changes in behaviour, and they are the sort of things that are not very specific and are quite hard to pick up.
“Through the highly advanced DTI scanning we are able to identify structural changes in the brain and confirm a diagnosis of brain damage, previously missed, as this is not visible on high field, state of the art, conventional MRI scans.
“Whilst MRI is a very powerful imaging tool, it doesn’t have the sophistication to identify CTE.”
MacSweeney also spoke about why it is so important to diagnose CTE as early as possible.
“Having these sorts of symptoms has really significant impacts on relationships, families and everything else. When people understand what is wrong, it hugely alleviates a lot of the interpersonal tension.
“It is one to inform people as to why they’re developing progressive dementia, thereby understanding better ways to treat and manage that, both with their family and everything else, and to make the right decisions for their future.
“Secondly, to inform and instruct so the new generations don’t fall into the same trap and start getting exactly the same level of brain injury and end up in the same place.”
She added: “What will probably happen is once people understand that the condition exists, it will be possible to find treatments that can hopefully prevent this from spreading and progressing. There just needs to be a massive increase in awareness.”