Category Archives: CTE Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a form of tauopathy, is a progressive degenerative disease found in people who have had a severe blow or repeated blows to the head. The disease was previously called dementia pugilistica (DP), i.e. “punch-drunk”, as it was initially found in those with a history of boxing. CTE has been most commonly found in professional athletes participating in American football, association football, ice hockey, professional wrestling, stunt performing, bull riding, rodeo, and other contact sports who have experienced repeated concussions or other brain trauma. Its presence in domestic violence is also being investigated. It can affect high school athletes, especially football players, following few years of activity.

The Rain People 1969 – Classic Coppola Film Addressed CTE 40 Years Before Anyone Knew About The Disease

Obscure, classic Francis Ford Coppola film addressed CTE in 1969. Yet the NFL claims no knowledge of permanent head trauma until the last decade.
Read a review of this obscure, classic film from IMDB:
the-rain-people-posterLong Island housewife Natalie Ravenna has just learned that she is pregnant. Natalie doesn’t know if she is well equipped to be a mother let alone a wife. Feeling trapped in her circumstances, she decides to run away to California to get as far away from her life as possible, although she, in a series of telephone calls back to her husband Vinny, is up front about what she believes she is feeling. This escape could be temporary, maybe permanent, she doesn’t really know. On her drive, she picks a young, handsome hitchhiker who she learns is Jimmy “Killer” Kilgannon, the nickname gained as a former star college football player. Her sole purpose in picking him up is to have a one-night stand, so that she can emotionally escape further from her life with Vinny. When she tries to drop him off at the home of one of his former girlfriends named Ellen Brook, Natalie further learns that Killer’s simple ways are because he is mentally disabled from a head injury sustained in a football game. The college paid him off to leave, Ellen has no interest in him in his mental state, and he has no family. Natalie herself becomes conflicted about helping him when she feels she can barely help herself. Among the many encounters Natalie has that affects her feelings about her life and about Killer, one with a Nebraska highway patrolman named Gordon provides her with the clearest picture, although it may come at a price.
Read Roger Ebert’s 1969 Review

Was CTE The Cause Of Alias Smith & Jones Actor Pete Duel’s Death

SJ93How prevalent is CTE among the general population? If a person has suffered a traumatic head injury or multiple mild head injuries at some point in their life, they may be as susceptible to CTE as ball players. A prominent case comes to mind, that of actor Pete Duel of Alias Smith And Jones fame who killed himself on December 31, 1971.

At the time it was thought that Duel was simply a victim of alcohol abuse and depression, but in reading his biography, it becomes apparent that Pete may have been suffering from CTE. The following excerpt is from Pete Duel: A Biography Kindle Edition by Paul Green

In the biting cold winter of 1958, Deuel plunged headfirst through a car windshield. Recalling the accident, Pamela said, “He had that accident during his Freshman year in college. He let someone else drive my parent’s station wagon. Two cars hit each other head on.

They didn’t have seat belts in those days and Peter’s head went through the windshield. He had a very serious gash on his head and almost bit off his tongue. It was horrible. They also did surgery on his face because he had a deep laceration on his cheek which required a couple of surgeries.

It was during his stay at the Y.M.C.A. that Deuel experienced what would prove to be a source of anxiety in his future life and career. His roommate witnessed Deuel undergoing going a grand mal seizure. “That’s when Peter called mother and Dad and said, `Something’s wrong,”‘ recalled Pamela. “That fear that he could have a seizure at any time and how to handle it, and the fact he didn’t want anyone to know, preyed on his mind. We weren’t going to tell anybody about this. Mother and Dad said that Peter never had a seizure until after the car accident in Penfield, and that often a head trauma will cause epilepsy. Peter hadn’t had seizures from birth, only after the accident.”

Pamela Deuel recalled yet another near-fatal accident involving her brother on the road to Watkins Glen, New York. “The motorcycle accident happened on a Sunday afternoon. When Peter drove out of the driveway on his motorcycle my mother looked at me and said, `I have a terrible feeling.’ He was going along the road when a car started to make a turn. Peter didn’t see him passing and swerved to avoid it. He was thrown from his motorcycle and landed head first onto a cement guard rail. His helmet saved his life.

Paul Green. Pete Duel: A Biography Kindle Edition.


Pete kept the seizures a secret from virtually everyone in Hollywood, rightfully afraid that if it were known, he might be unemployable. The seizures became progressively worse and more frequent.

In the fall of 1970, Pete had won a starring role in an offbeat Western TV series, Alias Smith And Jones, that was modeled on the hit movie, Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid. Series television is notorious for its grueling work schedule that can easily involve 80 hour weeks. The progression of Pete’s health problems dovetailed with the success of Smith And Jones. As the severity of the seizures increased, it was becoming clear to Pete that his acting career was in danger. He began drinking to excess, which is a common denominator in people attempting to deal with CTE.

Early in the morning of December 31, 1971, Pete took his own life. You can find videos of his friends and costars that included Sally Field and Ben Murphy who have expressed their anger and mystification over Pete’s suicide. We all felt it. Pete was an amazingly talented young man who seemed to have the world at his feet and an incredible career ahead of him. But head trauma is an invisible disease and can take all that away, as it likely did to Pete Duel.

A grand mal seizure — also known as a generalized tonic-clonic seizure — features a loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions. It’s the type of seizure most people picture when they think about seizures in general. Grand mal seizure is caused by abnormal electrical activity throughout the brain.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes, military veterans, and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma. Brain trauma can cause a build-up of an abnormal type of a protein called tau, which slowly kills brain cells. Once started, these changes in the brain appear to continue to progress even after exposure to brain trauma has ended. Possible symptoms include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, paranoia, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and eventually progressive dementia. Symptoms can begin to appear months, years, or even decades after trauma has ended. Currently, CTE can only be diagnosed after death by brain tissue analysis.

Follow The CTE Page on Facebook