A Debilitating Disease Found in NFL Players’ Brain Scans May Lead to Future Treatment Options

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, more commonly referred to as CTE, is one of the most debilitating diseases to hit professional sports. A recent study, authored by Dr. Julian Bailes and Dr. Gary W. Small, performed on five living former NFL players, found a crippling protein associated with CTE in their brain scans. Before this study, researchers said that the disease could only be confirmed by examining the brain after the patient was dead. Though the findings are “preliminary… this may be an opportunity to identify CTE before players have symptoms so we can develop preventative treatment,” Dr. Small, said.
ONE Brain and Spine Center physicians, Dr. Burak Ozgur commonly treats patients with brain conditions, and know their involvement and research on current studies will help them provide the utmost support and care. At ONE Brain and Spine Center, we believe in providing the best treatment options and most beneficial brain and spine news to every patients. Located in Irvine, ONE serves the residents in surrounding California areas with more than just brain and spine therapies.
The pilot study was conducted at UCLA and proved to be a step in the right direction to be able to better diagnose the disease in living patients. CTE is a neurodegenerative disease associated with dementia, memory loss, and depression. According to researchers, the disease is activated by repeated head injuries. For these NFL players, frequent head trauma and concussions have lead to severe brain damage. Early May 2013, after shooting himself in the chest, former Chargers linebacker Junior Seau’s brain autopsy revealed signs of CTE. Dave Duerson, former Chicago Bears defensive back, shot himself in February 2011. In his suicide not, he directed that his brain be donated to research. It would later be discovered that Duerson suffered from CTE.
For the research, five former NFL players participated. Among them were 59 year-old former Vikings linebacker Fred McNeill, and four other unnamed partakers. Each of the former professional football players had received at least one concussion during their career, and one participant received 10. A brain-imaging tool revealed that all five former players had evidence of CTE. Tau, an abnormal protein that suffocates brain cells, was blocking large parts of all of their brains. Tau was most saturated in the areas of the brain that control memory and emotions. This finding may lead researchers to believe players who have committed suicide were due to CTE and this abnormal protein.
Dr. Bailes sees this research as hopeful for the living players who have CTE. He anticipates the creation of more studies that will provide treatment options to help prevent these related suicides. He says, “I’ve been saying that identifying CTE in a living person is the Holy Grail for this disease and for us to be able to make advances in treatment.”
If you are active in professional or recreational sports and have sustained significant head trauma, schedule an appointment at ONE Brain and Spine Center today.
ONE Brain & Spine Center is the premier spine and brain center in Irvine, California, offering minimally invasive spine surgeries and minimally invasive orthopedic surgeries. For more information or to make an appointment, please call (949) 383-4190.
The advice and information contained in this article is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.

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