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First living CTE diagnosis confirmed in ex-NFL player, study finds

17 November 2017

The doctor went on to add that due to studying McNeil before his death and what came about after he passed, could lead to diagnosing players with CTE while they are alive.

The scans indicated the presence of tau, a protein that builds up over damaged brain cells.

That former player's identity, confirmed by his family, is Fred McNeill.

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Dr. Bennet Omalu is the doctor credited with finding CTE in football players

In what could be a breakthrough development in the detection and treatment of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, researchers have announced that they have confirmed the existence of the neurodegenerative disease in a patient whose brain they had scanned four years previously. Researchers at Boston University's CTE center found in a recent study of brains of deceased players who played football at the high school, college, or professional level that 99 percent of the NFL players studied had CTE.

Omalu showed his findings to CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta in 2016. "It looked like financial issues at first; it looked like marital issues, and they separated; then it looked like just depression", Gavin told Gupta. The finding, along with other recent research, could pave the way toward early diagnosis and effective treatments to reduce the severity of the illness or prevent it altogether.

"Our impression has been (CTE) is a very unique pattern" in the scans, said Bailes, who has been conducting research with scientists at UCLA to do scans of the brains of former football players and military personnel. It's more commonly known as CTE, and it's a debilitating disease that develops as a result of repetitive brain trauma. Wrestlers, boxers, and military troops have also been diagnosed with the disease.

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The diagnostic exam uses a radioactive tracer to bind to tau proteins in the brain.

In a paper published last week in the journal Neurosurgery, Bailes and other researchers reported that one of the former players who underwent a scan had his brain examined after he died - and sure enough, the tissue revealed he had been suffering from CTE.

As this research progresses it may lead to a day when active National Football League players as well as players in other sports with head injury risks, such as soccer, can be tested and possibly treated for early signs of CTE.

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They found that around a third of the men carried a non-functioning gene which helped them live an extra 10 years on average. Because of its essential role in clotting, the idea is to only lower levels of the protein, not eliminate it altogether.

Omalu said he and his team are now raising money to start a phase 3 clinical trial to further test the technology and replicate what they have seen in McNeill.

While more evidence is needed to further confirm the findings, doctors and researchers are hopeful that the information could prove to be helpful to earlier recognition of the symptoms of CTE, the Chicago Tribune said. "We are looking at less than five years", he said.

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First living CTE diagnosis confirmed in ex-NFL player, study finds