Frontline recently ran a story about football players who suffered brain damage from playing football. It is one the best documentaries I have ever seen (see it here "League of Denial").
Most people assume that football players who suffered multiple concussions were at high risk for brain damage and the evidence certainly supports that opinion. But the real insight of the Frontline story is that even players who never once suffered a concussion and who only played high school football were at serous risk for Chronic Traumatic Encephalitis (CTE). The important point here is CTE can be caused by the cumulative effect of thousands of sub-concussive hits. In other words, it is the normal hits of the game (about 1500 per season per player) that causes the brain damage and not necessarily the highlight reel hits.
CTE can only be diagnosed conclusively by an autopsy, and like any other encephalitis, ie, "Mad Cow" disease, it eats away at brain tissue like a microscopic, but very real Zombie. It turns normal, happy people into depressed, anti-social, and destructive suicidal maniacs. It destroys a person's very soul.
So what does that have to do with veterans? We now know that veterans suffer some of the very same brain injuries that football players suffer, traumatic brain injury or TBI, and that injury can have the very same effect on veterans as it does in football players. Again, this is not necessarily the result of a small number of spectacular hits, from an IED for example, but from multiple sub-concussive hits.
Dr. Bennett Omalu, the doctor who started the CTE and NFL investigation with his groundbreaking discovery of CTE in Mike Webster, also studied war veterans. You can see that study here "Chronic traumatic encephalopathy in an Iraqi war veteran with posttraumatic stress disorder who committed suicide."
The authors report this case as a sentinel case of CTE in an Iraqi war veteran diagnosed with PTSD to possibly stimulate new lines of thought and research in the possible pathoetiology and pathogenesis of PTSD in military veterans as part of the CTE spectrum of diseases, and as chronic sequelae and outcomes of repetitive traumatic brain injuries.
A lot of people, most of them non-veterans and many prosecutors and police officers, think veterans facing prosecution are just using post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) as an excuse. Part of the problem is that PTSD cannot necessarily be proven with a test like a MRI or blood test. I now wonder how many cases of PTSD induced behavior is really the result of CTE?
For more information about Arizona veterans and the criminal justice system, see "Why we need Veteran's Court for Maricopa County and Pima County" and "Veteran's Court in Phoenix".