Representative Shelby Labs of Pennsylvania photographed with Karen Kinzle-Zegel and Doug Zegel of the Patrick Risha CTE Awareness Foundation.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive brain disease believed to be caused by repeated impacts to the head.

Science shows that CTE is 100% preventable. Once a child’s brain becomes inflamed and hit repeatedly, the damage begins.

— Doug Zegel, Patrick Rish CTE Awareness Foundation Board Member

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania, USA, Jan. 28, 2022 / — The family of Patrick Risha will once again honor their departed loved one by declaring the fifth National CTE Awareness Day on January 30. Thanks to Senator Steve Santasiero and Representative Shelby Labs of Pennsylvania, the significance of this day will be announced at the Capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Across the country, other families will be doing the same in their state. Patrick Risha’s family joined other families at the Super Bowl in Houston in 2017 to kick off the first CTE Awareness Day. Since then, they have been strong advocates for the recognition of this event on January 30 each year.

“It’s a day to reflect on those who have lost CTE, how to help those who suffer from the disease, and most importantly, how to stop the disease,” said Karen Zegel, President of the Patrick Risha CTE Awareness Foundation. The website, formed by the foundation after Patrick’s death, is full of helpful information and research, treatment discussions and prevention strategies.

The goal is to avoid the heartache of losing someone like Patrick to CTE. It is a progressive brain disease that is believed to be caused by repeated impacts to the head. This insidious disease slowly and painfully destroys your brain. And it destroys the person in the process. Sadly, today, on midget, middle school, high school, and college grounds all over this country, budding young athletes train, practice, and play, so often unaware of the danger they face. Every collision, every tackle and every “hit” shakes the brain. These impacts add up.

This danger is all too real for the Risha family who lost Patrick in September 2014. His autopsy revealed generalized CTE. He was an All-Conference running back at Elizabeth Forward High School, a star post-grad at Deerfield Academy and a dedicated teammate at Dartmouth College. Patrick has never played professional football. But throughout high school, prep school and college, this tough young running back received enough blows to the head to seal his fate. Patrick developed CTE.

One of the missions of the Patrick Risha CTE Awareness Foundation is to provide parents of school-aged children (who have very sensitive brains) with information about the dangers of sports involving brain injury. Football is at the top of the list and pretty much involves the players who are repeatedly hit in the head. But the list goes on, from bull to cheerleader and beyond.

In 2015, the foundation launched the first “Flag up to 14” campaign to protect young children from brain injuries at too early an age, because science shows that the earlier you start a contact sport like football, the more there is a chance of developing the disease. Patrick started playing when he was 10 years old. They also have free flyers and banners for events that want to promote the “Safe Sports = No Brainer” campaign. “Science shows that CTE is 100% preventable. Once a child’s brain becomes inflamed and hit repeatedly, the damage begins. And you can’t take those beatings back,” says Doug Zegel, one of the foundation’s board members. Veterans doing ammunition and blasting drills and victims of domestic violence are also at risk.

The human brain is not designed to strike inside the skull. Especially in young people, helmets do not protect the athlete from CTE.

Unfortunately, Patrick suffered, undiagnosed and misunderstood for many years until he committed suicide (a common symptom of CTE). He left behind a son he adored, and a grieving family and community.

Visit for more information. ” Do not abandon. The website attempts to help show that there is hope for those suffering from symptoms. Most of the symptoms are psychological, while the disease is physical. Unfortunately, practitioners often don’t look for past brain injuries as the culprit. CTE can take 10 to 20 years to show symptoms so often the root cause is missed,” Karen said.

Amanda Walton, Patrick’s sister and board member of the foundation, said, “Not a minute goes by that I don’t miss Patrick. We hope our efforts will empower parents to make informed choices and avoid the certain sadness that comes from seeing a bright mind literally go offline.

Karen Kinzle Zegel
Patrick Risha Awareness Foundation CTE
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