New research at UCLA has uncovered a way to identify a buildup of tau in the brain of living individuals. The ability to detect tau may help prevent chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which has been found in the autopsies of a number of athletes with a history of concussions, according to Deadspin.
Tau is a protein that has been linked to CTE — a progressive degenerative disease commonly found in people who are struggling with symptoms of dementia, depression and aggression.
“I’ve always sort of thought of tau imaging as the holy grail on the issue of chronic brain damage, especially CTE,” Dr. Julian Bailes told Deadspin.
The brain of Junior Seau, an NFL linebacker who was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest last month, is being examined for signs of CTE. In the past decade, CTE has been found in the autopsies of several recently deceased NFL players.
Deadspin’s Kyle Wagner explained that while this technology may be incapable of helping those currently affected by the disease, “if we can see how the disease unfolds, we have a chance of stopping it.”
Former NFL players filed a mega-lawsuit against the NFL over the disease, but knowing when to stop playing is equally important for combating what ESPN called “the only fully preventable cause of dementia.”
If some sort of preventative isn’t discovered in the near future, such mega-lawsuits may bring about the end of football.