Originally published January 14, 2013 at 11:40 a.m., updated January 14, 2013 at 2:28 p.m.
Dr. Alexander Khalessi, Director of Neurovascular Surgery, UC San Diego
The National Football League is still reeling from news last week that San Diego Charger Junior Seau, who took is own life last May, suffered from chronic brain disease. Doctors say the disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE, can cause a host of mental problems including memory loss, irritability and depression.
Dr. Alexander Khalessi, the director of neurovascular surgery at UC San Diego, told KPBS the only way to diagnose CTE is through an autopsy. He said it's caused by brain injury due to concussion, contact sports or blast trauma.
"If you have multiple (concussions) in close proximity, or especially if your symptoms haven't resolved before you sustain another blow to the head, that's when the risk of CTE tends to go up," he said.
And it's not only professional athletes who may be at risk of sustaining these injuries. College, high school and youth football programs are also learning about CTE and trying to lessen the danger to players.
Phil Lomax, the commissioner of San Diego Youth Football and Cheer, said because of the measures the NFL is taking, local programs are also taking steps to reduce the amount of hitting that goes on.
"The key thing that you see now is players are being restricted from returning to play until their symptoms have gone away," he said.
Lomax also said for the last 10 years his organization has been doing concussion assessments. They also teach coaches how to properly fit players with helmets and teach players how to properly tackle.
Claire Trageser contributed to this report.