In the past, the only way to tell if someone has C.T.E (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) was to study the brain after death. This is why many NFL players have donated their brains for study – to find out if playing football and receiving concussions cause tau protein deposits to appear (tau has been linked to dementia, depression, mood swings etc).
What the studies have found is that the amount of tau in NFL players’ brains makes it look like they are old people with severe dementia. After Junior Seau committed suicide, his brain was studied. What they found was that even though Junior Seau never had a reported concussion during his NFL career, his brain had a lot of tau.
Yesterday, a study was released that might be a complete game changer in how the NFL, the military and other entities can detect and treat concussions, C.T.E and the like BEFORE it ends in suicide. This study possibly shows that a PET scan on a living person may be able to detect tau. If this is true (the case study was small and more studies have to be done to confirm the findings), this will allow organizations such as the NFL to assist players with possible issues regarding depression or mood swings before they ruin their lives.
It may also allow the NFL and the military to determine “base line” tests that will show someone’s brain before an injury and then they can compare the brain after an injury or a concussion. This will allow everyone to determine just how much damage is being done to football players, soldiers etc, over time.
This test may also show that football is a very dangerous sport, even if a player doesn’t actually get a “concussion.” It will probably show (and confirm what many doctors have been saying for years), that it is not “one big concussion” that causes the issues later in life, it is the thousands upon thousands of “smaller, incidental” hits that leads to issues. Every day during practice a lineman or linebacker has many “mini car accidents”, all resulting in damage to the brain.
While NFL players, soldiers etc, all know that they are in a very dangerous profession and injuries are going to happen, if tests exist that can help them get the assistance they need BEFORE it’s too late, maybe, just maybe, we’ll have less deaths by suicide in these professions.
I know the NFL may be scared to have tests like these available – it may show something they don’t want to see – that their sport is simply too dangerous to continue like it is; especially for younger children to play. However, if they can determine exactly what kind of damage is being done to their greatest assests (the players), they should be able to do much more to make the game safer.
We all love to watch football, however, do we as fans want to see our idols struggling after they retire with mental issues?