First CTE diagnosis in living former NFL player confirmed, but questions remain

The first diagnosis in a living patient of the dementia type that’s been hitting one former NFL player after the next—chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE—has been documented.

In a study published this week in Neurosurgery, researchers describe their work using PET with the radiotracer FDDNP to see the damaging tau proteins in vivo.

The study’s lead author, Bennet Omalu, MD, MPH, tells CNN that the affected player was Fred McNeill, who played linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings for 12 years.

McNeill retired in 1985, was diagnosed in 2012 and died in 2015. His CTE was confirmed by autopsy.

Covering the development for CNN, Sanjay Gupta, MD, notes that only 14 NFL players have been examined with FDDNP-PET, and only McNeill’s has been confirmed.

Gupta also points out that much research remains to be done.

“The question is, will the test be able to distinguish CTE from other dementias,” he says, “like Alzheimer’s?”

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