(NEW YORK) — A first-of-its-kind study suggests it’s possible to detect the brain damage often associated with with football players and military veterans while they’re still living.
Researchers at UCLA say they’ve found a protein linked to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease also known as CTE, in brain scans of five living former football players. To detect the protein abnormalities in the players’ brains, researchers used a new imaging technique called position emission tomography (PET) scanning.
Up until now, the disease often described as football-related damage had only been detected during an autopsy.
CTE was most recently found in the brain of former San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau, who killed himself in May. Seau’s family has filed suit against the NFL, claiming the former linebacker’s suicide was the result of CTE that was caused by years of violent hits while he was playing football.
“We were saddened to learn that Junior, a loving father and teammate, suffered from CTE,” Seau’s family said Wednesday in a statement. “While Junior always expected to have aches and pains from his playing days, none of us ever fathomed that he would suffer a debilitating brain disease that would cause him to leave us too soon.”
While the study authors say more research is needed, they are calling these findings a first step toward warding off CTE and symptoms like dementia, memory loss and depression before it’s too late.
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