Severe suicidality in athletes with chronic traumatic encephalopathy A case series and overview on putative ethiopathogenetic mechanisms

Alessandra Costanza, Michalina Radomska, Francesco Zenga, Andrea Amerio, Andrea Aguglia, Gianluca Serafini, Mario Amore, Isabella Berardelli, Yasutaka Ojio, Khoa D. Nguyen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) results from repetitive brain injuries and is a common neurotraumatic sequela in contact sports. CTE is often accompanied by neuropsychiatric symptoms, which could escalate to suicidal ideation (SI) and suicidal behaviour (SB). Nevertheless, fairly limited emphasis about the association between suicidality and CTE exists in medical liter-ature. Here, we report two cases of retired professional athletes in high contact sports (boxing and ice hockey) who have developed similar clinical trajectories characterized by progressive neuro-psychiatric symptoms compatible with a CTE diagnosis and subsequent SB in its severe forms (medical serious suicide attempt (SA) and completed suicide). In addition to the description of outlining clinical, neuropsychological, neuroimaging, and differential diagnosis elements related to these cases, we also hypothesized some mechanisms that might augment the suicide risk in CTE. They include those related to neurobiological (neuroanatomic/neuroinflammatory) dysfunctions as well as those pertaining to psychiatry and psychosocial maladaptation to neurotraumas and re-tirement from professional competitive activity. Findings described here can provide clinical pic-tures to improve the identification of patients with CTE and also potential mechanistic insights to refine the knowledge of eventual severe SB development, which might enable its earlier preven-tion.

Original languageEnglish
Article number876
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2021


  • Chronic traumatic encephalopathy
  • Contact sports
  • Neuropsychiatric symptoms
  • Suicidal behaviour
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Suicide
  • Suicide attempt

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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