When NFL legend Frank Gifford died in 2015 at the age of 84, his family revealed that for years he’d suffered from mental issues caused by chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE); which tied to head trauma experienced during his years of play. But there’s long been one tough issue with CTE: It can only be diagnosed after death by brain autopsy. Now, research involving retired NFL players might change all that.
That could greatly speed research into the devastating condition. Detection of the disease during life could be use to assess its epidemiology, risk factors and course, and be use in treatment and prevention trials,” wrote a team led by Dr. Robert Stern of Boston University School of Medicine. One emergency medicine; so expert who’s work closely with pro athletes—including players with the New York Jets agree that such a test is urgently need.
A noninvasive way to diagnose CTE while living would allow us: hence to treat it sooner and hopefully minimize or alter the devastating course of the disease,” explaine Dr. Robert Glatter, who practices at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. Glatter wasn’t involve in the new research; which was fund in part by Avid Radio pharmaceuticals, the company that is developing the new test.
As Stern’s team explained, CTE is strongly tied to repeat head injuries in sports; such as football or boxing, and is characterize by the buildup in the brain of a protein called tau. In prior studies of former American football players; hence the number of years of tackle football experience has associate with the severity of tau deposition” in the brain; so the researchers said. But so far, clear evidence of CTE has only been available through examination of brain tissue after death.
Brain regions that showed changes
The study found clear patterns on the scans that seem to separate the former players; hence from the men in the “control” group. Specifically, the NFL players at risk of CTE has levels of tau protein in three key brain areas; so that was not see in men without a history of head injury. These were the same three brain regions that show changes characteristic of CTE during postmortem autopsies, Stern’s team noted.
The scans were also able to distinguish possible CTE-link brain abnormalities from those of Alzheimer’s disease; so another illness closely tied to tau deposits. Still, the study group was small and this research is in its early stages; so Stern’s group stressed. Further studies are need to determine whether elevate CTE associate tau can be detect in individual [living] persons,” the study authors concluded.
Dr. Jamie Ullman is director for neurotrauma at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset; so N.Y. they agree that the study is promising in terms of identifying the utility of PET scanning to potentially diagnose cases of CTE,” but “more research is, of course, needed. Designing an accurate and reliable method to definitively diagnose the disease in those who are living is vital, because early detection may improve the chances of successful treatment if a viable approach is determined,” Glatter said.