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Kathy Marshack News

7 Things You Need to Know About CTE

Wednesday, September 26, 2018


Here are 7 things you should know, so you can protect yourself and your loved ones from the damages of CTE, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy is a devastatingly degenerative disease linked to repetitive head trauma, such as experienced in football or soccer. It doesn’t take a severe head blow, like a concussion, to trigger CTE.

How brain cells are affected by repeated injury:

  • The brain and spinal cord are made up of billions of cells. Specific brain cells called neurons transmit signals to each other.
  • Those signals are sent via axons, held together by microtubules.
  • A protein called tau adds stability to the microtubules and strengthens the axons.
  • Brain trauma causes tau proteins to detach from the microtubule, destabilizing the structure.
  • The loose tau clump together and form clumps or tangles that spread throughout the brain, brain stem and spinal cord, killing brain cells as it spreads.

There are four stages in the development of CTE. CTE starts with headaches and loss of concentration. In time, CTE damage often causes depression, mood swings, explosive outbursts, memory loss, executive dysfunction, language difficulties, impulsivity, aggression, paranoia, and dementia. People with CTE become violent, suicidal, and even homicidal. Sometimes, their personality shifts with little notice.

Seven Things You Need to Know About CTE

1. People with CTE are EmD-2 on my Empathy Scale. That means their empathy comes and goes, so you never know whether or not they’re connecting with you.

2. EmD-2s can also be violent. It’s not just their empathy that comes and goes, but other emotional regulatory functions as well.

3. Mild concussions and head injuries associated with contact sports, such as football, hockey, and soccer can lead to TBI and, eventually, CTE, which is incurable and can be fatal.

4. Helmets cannot protect the soft, Jell-O-like brain from being damaged inside the skull when it is bashed in an auto accident, a football tackle, or a frontal collision with a goal post.

5. Symptoms may point to your loved one suffering from mild TBI or worse, but you no longer need to remain in the dark about treatment. Dr. David Amen has pioneered the use of brain scans and holistic treatment that looks very promising.

6. The tragedy of having a family member with EmD-2 is that you may never get them back. Without proper treatment, people with these brain injuries can become so unreasonable and belligerent that you have to keep your distance to stay safe.

7. Codependency results when you keep trying to protect your EmD-2 loved one. Making excuses for their conduct will not help. They need medical treatment.

CTE affects the athlete AND their families. When my daughter, Phoebe, was five, we enrolled her in soccer. She loved it! Back then, I didn’t know how head trauma could cause severe brain damage, yet I told her —and her coaches—that she wasn’t allowed to do “headers.” Her coaches just laughed at me, then gave me the usual lecture about parents letting the coaches coach. One coach even said, “She’s not working hard enough unless she gets her bells rung once in a while!” as if head injuries were a badge of honor.

Phoebe experienced her first head injury when she was 8 years old. Over the years, she received many more. Her diagnosis of Brain Trauma came from a psychiatrist at the Amen Clinic. It explained so much about her self-destructive and violent behavior. I invite you to read the full story in chapter five of my new book, “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS.”

Parents - Remember Football Brain Injuries Lead to Family Tragedies

Monday, April 02, 2018


The long-lasting damage caused by brain injuries sustained while playing games like football and soccerHow many stories do we have to read or hear about football brain injuries before things change? I recently read, in the New York Times, Emily Kelly’s heartbreaking story about her husband Rob Kelly, a retired N.F.L. player. When he retired at 28, he had no idea of the long-term consequences of the “game”. He went from being a loving, sensitive, family man to a reclusive man who doesn’t eat and is often paranoid.

Emily points out that NFL’s top medical experts obscured the dangers of permanent harm to the brain. She shared a link to an OPB resource that chronicles the NFL's Concussion Crisis. It’s very enlightening to see they knew and said nothing.

Throughout her story, she speaks of how alone she feels, as she deals with her husband’s strange behavior. It changed their lives. They’re sharing their story to alert parents to the dangers associated with this sport. It has serious and deadly consequences. The money that is made is not worth the lives that are destroyed.

I was especially struck by the following description of how it changed Emily:

“When you live with someone with brain damage, you become highly attuned to your environment and develop an intimate relationship with your senses and intuition. Your hearing becomes excellent, almost unbearably keen, like a movie character who develops supernatural abilities overnight. Rob’s mood swings scare me sometimes, and I always have to be in tune with early signs of his agitation. I try to protect him from stress so he won’t be overwhelmed. It’s exhausting.”

Her story is not unique. I went through all of this with my daughter who played soccer. At 23 she assaulted me, knocking me across the room into a plate glass door. She accused me of attempting to pour wine on my sleeping 8 month old grandson; I was totally taken aback by this crazy accusation. She called the police and was so convincing that I was arrested and jailed. Later all charges were dropped when it was evident that I was the victim. The mood swings, the paranoia, the assaultive behavior— it’s sad and frightening. Healing from the destruction of my daughter, our relationship and our family drove me to write a book about it, “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS.” I invite you to download the first chapter for free.

If your life has been turned upside down because a loved one has TBI or CTE, please don’t try to go it alone. Find a supportive group and enlist the help of a mental health professional. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for your busy schedule.

The Heartbreaking Link Between CTE and Empathy Dysfunction

Wednesday, February 28, 2018


Link between CTE and Empathy DysfunctionI have read countless stories of professional, college and even high school athletes struck down by chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Athletes in all contact sports—football, hockey, soccer, and baseball—are being diagnosed with CTE. But a new article still caught my eye on CNN - Former NFLers call for end to tackle football for kids.

Several former NFL players are working with the Concussion Legacy Foundation to support a new initiative, Flag Football Under 14, that pushes for no tackle football until 14. In the article, one player, who has been diagnosed with dementia and probable CTE, made a heartfelt plea to parents, “I beg of you, all parents to please don't let your children play football until high school. I made the mistake starting tackle football at 9 years old. Now, CTE has taken my life away. Youth tackle football is all risk with no reward."

The article went on to discuss something that many people misunderstand when it comes to CTE. People are under the impression that concussions are what lead to the disorder. However, CTE is actually much more likely to be found in soccer players and other athletes exposed to repetitive minor hits. Instead of pointing specifically to “concussion” as the cause, this is called Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (or Mild TBI). As if there is anything mild about CTE.

Since I’ve been writing my new book on empathy dysfunction, I found research studies on empathy disorders and mild traumatic head injuries that made the connection between TBI and loss of empathy quite clear. It makes sense since the circuits responsible for empathy are a complex system located throughout the brain.

I went through this with my own daughter who played soccer. At 23 she assaulted me, knocking me across the room into a plate glass door. I believe that brain trauma explains the mood swings, the paranoia, and the assaultive behavior.

I don’t want any other parent to have to stand by and see their child suffer from traumatic brain injury. Do your research before putting your child in a sport that could have long-term negative consequences. Some worse than you could ever have imagined!

Are you wondering whether you’re dealing with a family member, friend, co-worker or neighbor with severe empathy dysfunction? My upcoming book, “When Empathy Fails – How to stop those hell-bent on destroying you,” delves into Empathy Disorders and offers advice on how you can protect yourself from people who can’t or won’t demonstrate empathy. You can read the first chapter here.

Brain Scans Now Deliver Better Diagnosis for PTSD or TBI

Monday, August 10, 2015


Up until now the diagnosis of brain disorders could be confused because Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury share common symptoms such as insomnia, irritability, and anxiety. Happily, I’ve just received a notification from Dr. Daniel Amen that their studies now confirm that brain scans detect the differences between Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. That is exciting news!

This means that the 7 million+ PTSD sufferers and 2 million brain injury sufferers every year in the U.S. will receive better diagnosis and treatment.

How do researchers distinguish between the two brain disorders?

They use SPECT Imaging (single photon emission computed tomography) to measure blood flow and activity in 128 different brain regions. As Dr. Amen describes it, “SPECT can tell TBI and PTSD apart because these disorders affect the brain in different ways. TBI involves damage to the brain from direct blows or blast injuries, leading to reduced brain activity and blood flow. PTSD involves hyperactive reactions to different stimuli leading to brain scan patterns where blood flow is abnormally higher compared to TBI or normal health.”

Can brain damage from PTSD and TBI be reversed? Improvements can be made. The use of therapy, medicines, whole foods, vitamins and supplements can heal the brain. This is the type of holistic health regimen that I often use with clients. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment to get your life back.

Learn more about holistic healing on my website – Mind and Body: Holistic Health and Psychotherapy Options.



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