CTE Confirmed 1st Time in Living Ex-NFL Player

Caption + Fred McNeill who died in 2015 spent 12 seasons in the NFL as a linebacker with the Minnesota Vikings

Now, Evanston's NorthShore University HealthSystem neurosurgeon Dr. "It looked like financial issues at first; it looked like marital issues, and they separated; then it looked like just depression", Gavin told Gupta.

But Bailes, Bennet Omalu - who coined the term CTE after discovering it in Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster in 2002 - and other the researchers were convinced they were seeing the telltale signs of the disease in scans of former players and service men and women. The findings from the study also confirmed that a "fingerprint" signature of CTE that was previously reported exists, according to the study.

McNeill spent 12 seasons in the National Football League as a linebacker for the Vikings from 1974-1985. When his brain was autopsied, tau - the destructive protein associated with CTE - was found in the exact spots the scan had indicated. Following the death of one of the players, doctors confirmed a CTE diagnosis.

Omalu is part of a company called TauMark that is trying to commercialize the brain scan technology (Bailes said he is not involved). He had only one reported concussion, suffered when he was in college, and didn't even have his "bell rung" very often. After his career on the field, the subject went to law school and became a partner at a law firm.

Researchers believe they now have the first case of a living person identified with chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE.

The findings were first presented exclusively to CNN a year ago, revealing that McNeill suffered sudden behavioral changes, transforming him from a fun loving family man to someone displaying anger, depression and memory loss.


He developed ALS about two years later and died when he was 63.

But Dr. Lili-Naz Hazrati, a neuroscience researcher at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, said no matter the technology, reliable CTE detection still appears far away. "(The damage) is not seen in other degenerative brain diseases".

The name of the National Football League player was not mentioned in the Neurosurgery article but it did state he was a defensive end in college and a linebacker in the NFL.

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.

"When there's such a diversity (of diagnostic techniques) and no one seems to be finding the same thing, it's really hard to validate the findings", she said.

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