Brain scans performed on five former NFL players revealed images of the protein that causes football-related brain damage — the first time researchers have identified signs of the crippling disease in living players…The UCLA researchers used a patented brain-imaging tool to examine Fred McNeill, a 59-year-old former Vikings linebacker; Wayne Clark, a 64-year-old former back-up quarterback; and three other unidentified players: a 73-year-old former guard; a 50-year-old former defensive lineman; and a 45-year-old former center. Each had sustained at least one concussion; the center sustained 10.
CTE is caused by a buildup of tau, an abnormal protein that strangles brain cells. The scan lit up for tau in all five former players, according to the study. The protein was concentrated in areas that control memory, emotions and other functions — a pattern consistent with the distribution of tau in CTE brains that have been studied following autopsy, according to the researchers.
“The findings are preliminary — we only had five players — but if they hold up in future studies, this may be an opportunity to identify CTE before players have symptoms so we can develop preventative treatment,” said Dr. Gary W. Small, the study’s lead author and a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA.
So we may soon begin to see concussion-related dementia as it develops in football players during their careers. I sure cannot see the NFL denying players the brain scans to see just how much damage they are sustaining. TNC notes:
I don’t know what the adults will do. But you tell a parent that their kid has a five percent chance of developing crippling brain damage through playing a sport, and you will see the end of Pop Warner and probably the end of high school football. Colleges would likely follow. (How common are college boxing teams these days?)
After that, I don’t know how pro football can stand for long.