It's Not Football Players Most at Risk for CTE

'NYT Magazine' explores 'hidden epidemic' of brain injuries to women survivors of domestic abuse
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 5, 2022 8:45 AM CST
They Suffer More Concussions Than Soldiers, Football Players

By now, most people are aware of the dangers of brain injuries suffered by football players who receive regular blows to the head over years. The same holds true for soldiers of war in regard to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. But in a harrowing account in the New York Times Magazine, Christa Hillstrom reveals what her story describes as a "hidden epidemic" of such brain injuries in another segment of the population—women who are the victims of domestic abuse. Consider this jarring line: "While brain injuries among this population have never been comprehensively tracked, data suggest that the rate might be significantly higher than those incurred by athletes or soldiers." Consider that the CDC estimates 1 in 5 women will experience violence at the hands of a partner at some point, and that most injuries are to the head, neck, and face.

“People might think, someone smacked her in the head or pushed her, no big deal,” says Eve Valera of Harvard, a leading researcher on brain injuries related to domestic violence. But she estimates 1.6 million annual brain injuries among abuse survivors, a figure that dwarfs the hundreds of annual concussions in the NFL and the thousands in the military. The story digs into individual cases, women who were regularly beaten and began to suffer the telltale symptoms of brain trauma after years. In many cases, however, doctors failed to make the link to CTE and chalked up the women's trouble to PTSD. (Often, it's a combination of both.) A woman identified as Becky recalls learning about CTE when her forgetfulness rose to alarming levels. “It dawned on me: Holy, like I’ve probably been hit way more times than the average football player,” she says. (Read the full story.)

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