Published: Fri, November 17, 2017
Sport | By Gary Shelton

CTE confirmed for first time in living former National Football League player

CTE confirmed for first time in living former National Football League player

McNeill retired in 1985, was diagnosed in 2012 and died in 2015. His case study with McNeill was published in the journal "Neurosurgery" this week.

Dr. Julian Bailes, a NorthShore neurosurgeon, said Wednesday that confirmation has arrived.

The first diagnosis in a living patient of the dementia type that's been hitting one former National Football League player after the next-chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE-has been documented. The scientists and doctors found the presence of the protein tau in the brain of a living patient, a signal that CTE is there, according to ESPN. "If you can trust the scans, you can tell a football player he shouldn't keep playing, or tell someone in the military he can't get in the way of explosions".

CNN has identified former Viking linebacker Fred McNeill as the former player who living with CTE.

Dr. Bennet Omalu, the pioneering CTE researcher portrayed by actor Will Smith in the 2015 movie "Concussion", is the lead author on the Neurosurgery paper.

"If there's ever a treatment developed, you can test the response to it", Bailes said.

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Omalu has been dedicated to CTE research for many years and is credited with first discovering the disease in professional football players. The magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans revealed signs of brain abnormalities suspected of being associated with CTE, including atrophy of parts of the brain and diffuse white matter, for example.

"Two years after his (PET) scan, at age 61, his wife noticed progressive motor deficits, including inability to button his shirts, zip his trousers or tie his shoes, and eventually feed himself", the researchers reported.

The news comes a week after separate research suggested former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who committed suicide while incarcerated for murder, suffered "the most severe case of a degenerative disease" and was "significantly impacted" by the effects of CTE. Researchers at Boston University announced in September they had found higher levels of a protein called CCL11 in the brains of people diagnosed with CTE, and that it might be possible to use that as a biomarker to detect the disease in the living.

The patient died at the age of 63, and his brain and spinal cord were kept for medical evaluation. Similarly, Alzheimers disease is being diagnosed earlier in life, with at-risk populations taking medications created to delay or reduce symptoms.

Figuring out a way to definitively diagnose the disease in living people is important because early detection improves the odds of successful treatment, she said.

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