For the first time, doctors have accurately diagnosed severe brain damage in a living former NFL player, opening new avenues for detecting and treating chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative disorder caused by multiple concussions.
“This is a major milestone,” said lead researcher Dr. Bennet Omalu, the Nigerian-born pathologist who discovered the first case of CTE in a former NFL player in 2005.
In 2012, former Minnesota Vikings linebacker Fred McNeill participated in Dr. Omalu’s study, in which he was injected with the experimental drug FDDNP and then had his brain scanned. CTE was diagnosed in the scans but could only be confirmed in an autopsy after his death. While not named in the study, McNeill’s family confirmed his identity to the Chicago Tribune.
McNeill died in 2015. A postmortem examination of his brain confirmed the researchers’ findings in his living scans.
“The comparison is validating that FDDNP is doing what we believe it should be doing in the brain,” Dr. Omalutold The Washington Times. “So this is now encouraging us to take it to the next level, which is the clinical phase trial. This is not an end; this is just a milestone.”