The concussion crisis may have just opened a new door.
Researchers for the first time have detected changes in the brains of football players who are still alive. Specifically, new brain imaging techniques have detected abnormal tau proteins in five retired NFL players.
Though the proteins don’t necessarily prove the existence of or predict the development of Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy, it’s the first time that abnormal tau proteins that can lead to CTE have been detected via a method other than an autopsy.
The findings were published today by the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, the official journal of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry. And the study indicates that the development could “facilitate early recognition and intervention of trauma-related neurodegeneration through premorbid detection,” calling the technique a “critical first step to developing interventions to prevent symptoms onset and progression.” (It’s a good thing they use plain English in these studies.)
The study bears the names of 11 authors: Gary W. Small, M.D.; Vladimir Kepe, Ph. D.; Prabha Siddarth, Ph.D.; Linda M. Ercoli, Ph. D.; David A. Merrill, M.D., Ph. D.; Natacha Donoghue, B.A.; Susan Y. Bookheimer, Ph.D.; Jacqueline Martinez, M.S.; Bennet Omalu, M.D.; Julian Bailes, M.D.; and Jorge R. Barrio, Ph.D.
The broader question is whether any player who is determined to have abnormal tau proteins will stop playing football. We’ve got a feeling that few will.