CTE has been found for the first time in a living human

Doctors diagnosed former Viking Fred McNeil with CTE before he died.

The day has come and soon, it could mean a significant change in how sports are played. Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, also known as CTE, has been confirmed in a living patient for the first time.

Researchers published their study and findings this week. The scientists and doctors found the presence of a protein called tau in the brain of a living patient, a signal that CTE is there, according to ESPN.

“Tau, a protein that forms around damaged neural cells, (was found) in 14 retired NFL players through a brain scan. Following the death of one of the players, doctors confirmed a CTE diagnosis.”

The former player mentioned in the study was Fred McNeil, who passed away in 2015. McNeil was a first-round pick in 1974 out of UCLA and played for the Minnesota Vikings from 1974-1985.

Dr. Bennet Omalu was one of the 12 researchers attached to the paper and told ESPN that McNeil was the player mentioned in the findings. Dr. Julian Bailes, another doctor involved, told ESPN that their findings confirm what “Outside the Lines” reported back in February of 2016: McNeil was living with CTE.

“It’s not just about the concussions,” Bailes said. “It’s about years of exposure and subconcussive blows.”

Bailes’ statement is exactly why football, and hockey to an extent, is the primary focus of most CTE studies. The doctor went on to add that due to studying McNeil before his death and what came about after he passed, could lead to diagnosing players with CTE while they are alive.

“The importance of this one today is that this is the first time to have a scan which shows brain degeneration of CTE in a living person and then to have that person die and it correlates with the autopsy,” Bailes said, according to ABC News.

While researchers study these findings more, Omalu said a commercial test for CTE could be less than five years away.


About David Lauterbach

David is a writer for The Comeback. He enjoyed two Men's Basketball Final Four trips for Syracuse before graduating in 2016. If The Office or Game of Thrones is on TV, David will be watching.