OT: Researches find possible path to CTE diagnosis in the living

Submitted by ca_prophet on September 26th, 2017 at 6:18 PM


They have detected increased levels of a protein associated with inflammation in patients previously diagnosed with CTE.  The next step is devising a way to check for increased levels via blood or other scan that can be done on the living.




September 26th, 2017 at 6:28 PM ^

This is potentially huge. Many on this board have complained about conclusions being drawn with "limited science" thus far. While that is definitely true, it's hard to see the science progressing much more rapidly so long as researchers have to wait until death to diagnose the disease. This test could, for instance, allow the kinds of cross-group comparisons that let us definitively say, "people who start playing football at X years old and continue playing through college are Y times more likely to develop CTE than the general population, and Z times more likely than people who play soccer for a similar period of time..."

And then the douche on this board who always says, "DERP, everyone has to run cross country now" will have to find a new snappy comeback...  


September 26th, 2017 at 7:13 PM ^

Or help us figure out how to better deal with and prevent injuries. There’s a lot of money to be made from preventing this. Necessity might be the mother of invention, but the potential for a big profit is the sugar daddy that gets her knocked up.

Clarence Beeks

September 27th, 2017 at 12:19 PM ^

Or prove that it isn't related to football.  One of the big holes in the research and conclusions drawn so far is that they haven't established that it actually IS related to football.  All they really have so far is just that brains of a truly very small number of deceased football players show it.  In other words, they haven't done much, if any, research on the brains of people who didn't play football, or the brains of other people who did play football but did not exhibit symptoms during their lifetime, or die in a way that would cause the proper autopsy to be done, to see if it was also there. The high liklihood is that it's actually going to end up being either not football related OR that certain people are going to be genetically predisposed to it, not that everyone who plays football is at risk of getting it (either equally or at all).


September 26th, 2017 at 7:27 PM ^

There will always be people who don’t care chose the money anyways and go on with it. There’s still a lot more variables to account for. I find it egregious that they can say only head injuries will cause depression and adverse side effects. They don’t take into account the lifestyle, drugs, social impact, etc. I’m sure it plays a contributing roll but to act like it’s the only thing is a bit naive.


September 26th, 2017 at 8:00 PM ^

Dude, lots of people watch hockey to see fights. People love to see MMA and Boxing to see people get beat up, people wont stop watching. Might there be a decline sure, but the decline I bet isn't as big. I don't have an issue watching if someone willingly wants to play let them play. They know the risks.


September 26th, 2017 at 10:52 PM ^

Are running your head into things at a high rate of speed is gonna cause damage, do this enough over time and sure its significant, it might even cause pre mature death. That being said if someone wants to go line up and do it, well then let them. There is a thing called survival of the fittest. 


September 26th, 2017 at 10:26 PM ^

This is potentially huge. Many on this board have complained about others not jumping to conclusions being drawn with "limited science" thus far. While that is definitely true, it's hard to see the science progressing much more rapidly so long as researchers have to wait until death to diagnose the disease, but despite acknowledging that I'm going to ignore it and speak dismissively and take on a smug sense of superiority about my presupposed position. This test could, for instance, allow kinds of cross-group comparisons that let us definitively say, "people who start playing football at X years and old continue playing through college are Y times more likely to develop CTE than the general population, and Z times more likely than people who play soccer for a similar period of time..."

And then the douche on this board who always says, "DERP, NFL players who spent their entire lifetimes getting hit in the head repeatedly in a completely different era and directly volunteered themselves for postmortem tests based on their clearly showing effects while living means that anybody who played a snap of football at any point of their life also has catastrophic CTE" will have to find a new snappy comeback...


September 27th, 2017 at 3:48 AM ^

Ha, very well done! I mean, there are a few factual errors in here, of course. For instance, Aaron Hernandez didn't play in a "different era," he played in the NFL from 2010 to 2012, three whole years, yet had advanced CTE. And it isn't only the players that "volunteer themselves" for these tests post mortem, it is also the loved ones that watch them fall apart or kill themselves to end the pain of their mania or depression. But other than that, excellent job at opening a new MGoBlog account just to be a giant dickhead! 


September 27th, 2017 at 6:21 AM ^

He's just pointing out how counterproductive it is to jump to conclusions with nothing to really back them up. I'm guessing he works in clinical or basic science research because these unsubstantiated alarmist narratives are really cringe worthy to people in those fields. Don't take it personally.


September 27th, 2017 at 8:12 AM ^

Thanks! I'd expect nothing less from somebody who can't grasp the irony or hypocrisy of the matter, attacking a strawman while envisioning himself as the epitome of reason. Then, when having his own shortsighted, condescending, arrogant attitude and argument thrown back at him in an exact mirror, takes offense to it, rather than seeing the error in criticizing others for not jumping to conclusions when jumping to conclusions in a big way himself.

I mean, there are a few factual errors in here, of course. For instance, Aaron Hernandez was a lifelong gangbanger who supposedly got into a great deal of fights even in prison, and therefore his lifestyle likely exposed him to a lot more risk factors for CTE than mere football did. Aside from that, he's a single individual who you're drawing these conclusions from, and that's a dangerous game to play, regardless of all else. Not to mention, the one to report on the supposed severity of Henandez's CTE was Jose Baez (yes, that Jose Baez) who, aside from his sterling legal reputation, is exactly the first person that I'd trust for an impartial account of the CTE of his own client. I certainly wouldn't want an expert or qualified party to communicate the matter, no. I want a lawyer with no medical training trying to build a narrative. Following that, you conveniently ignore the obvious point that was being made, the individuals that are being volunteered aren't the average NFL player from their era and instead are obvious outliers, then distract from that by appealing to emotion rather than making a point or argument of any kind.

But other than that, excellent job at breaking your open mic night internet persona, which you only ever do when political topics or the chance to be sanctimonious comes up. I really like it when you combine the two, I'm a big fan.


September 27th, 2017 at 9:05 AM ^

You are referring exclusively to a single study that's been done on CTE and was, admittedly, sensationalized by the media. That is absolutely not the only research on the topic, and by pretending it is you are being absurd. 

Rather than answer your long diatribe with my own, let me ask a simple question: Do you truly believe that there is no association between football and head injuries, including CTE? 


September 27th, 2017 at 9:26 AM ^

I'm actually not "referring exclusively" to a single study, rather making the point that the vast majority of individuals who have been studied  thus far have been studied for a reason. Namely, exhibiting signs of CTE while still alive, either noticed by themselves or their families, who then go out of their way postmorterm to have their brains evaluated. It's not a representative sample of all football players being reported on, and there's no way yet to quantify the true prevalence, and instead people are latching on to cases of selection bias and individual anecdotes to fuel a media-induced panic. Aside from that, the fact that you can acknowledge the media's role in exaggerating and sensationalizing that particular study, then take a great deal of the rest of what you hear about CTE from unqualified individuals at face value is baffling to me.

With that in mind, it's obvious that the prevalence of CTE is up for debate, especially amongst those who played it in elementary, middle, or high school, as is the severity of CTE. The era in which one played also obviously factors in. It might be worse today than in the past with the superior athletes, or it may be much better with different equipment and different rules, we don't yet know. The important point, though, is that we don't yet know, and jumping to conclusions, as well as criticizing others for not jumping to conclusions, is extremely shortsighted and reactionary.

To say that contact sports have no link with CTE is foolish, and I've never seen anybody take that viewpoint. At the same time, to take the opposite viewpoint, exaggerating the severity and prevalence of CTE and taking it as a foregone conclusion with so many unknown factors, is equally foolish. Even more shameful are the people who stand on one side or the other while treating anybody on the other side as either "pussies" or "ignorant meatheads" while disingenuously reducing their arguments to things like "WE'LL ALL NEED TO RUN CROSS COUNTRY!"

The important thing is that we don't yet know, so to either jump on the sensationalist bandwagon or pretend that football is entirely safe is absurd. Wait until we have more facts to take such stances, then evaluate it.


September 27th, 2017 at 9:48 AM ^

Hmmmm, we literally agree perfectly on the CTE issue and this debate, but you seem to have read into my original post some massive degree of "dismissiveness" of the other side. I don't think I exhibited that, but I simply cannot stand folks who lean on the "uncertainty of science" as a crutch to eternally question things. These are the same folks who to this day deny the smoking-cancer linkage, as even now (after what, 50+ years of research?) we cannot move past correlation to true causation because of the "too many variables" problem. Researchers could say, "football is 99.9% likely to result in CTE based on this exceptional science we've done that almost no one questions," and these folks will continue to deny it as an artifact of the "pussification of America." That will lead to the death of football, and since football is literally the only team sport I follow passionately, I would really prefer that not happen. 

P.S. I apologize for calling you a dickhead. That was wrong. It was 4 AM and I was awake with jetlag. You seem like an intelligent, reasonable person. 


September 27th, 2017 at 9:58 AM ^

It's all good, my friend. I definitely flew off the handle, as well, based on what undeniably was an exaggeration on your part for the sake of making a joke in your initial post. I definitely said some things that were also uncalled for, and I apologize to you from the bottom of my heart for that. For what it's worth, I was definitely being a dick, although I stand by all of the points that I made.

It's undeniable how important that football is to anybody who reads or follows the blog, and at the same time nobody wants to see anybody, especially kids, suffer permanent harm for the sake of a game. I have no doubt that what we all want to see is a game that is as safe as humanly possible that we can continue enjoy for generations to come, and hopefully we're able to make that a reality.

If it's still on the table, I'll gladly take you up on one of those free hugs offered in one of your old avatars!


September 27th, 2017 at 10:10 AM ^

I am virtually hugging you right now. 

Let's hope CTE ends up being more generally widespread than we thought, and not especially bad in football, and this all goes away. I have a feeling that's not the case, but let's hope. 


September 26th, 2017 at 6:32 PM ^

Interesting development...hopefully it can open pathways to treatment. If detected at a younger age in FB players would the next step be an exit from the sport or more attention to technique/mitigation? It would be good to test large numbers of players at younger ages for CTE.


September 26th, 2017 at 6:53 PM ^

Its just correlative. I find it hard to believe that there's no marker for Parkinson's or Alzheimer's where they are decades ahead in research, and have known correlative proteins, but they could detect CTE.


September 26th, 2017 at 7:51 PM ^

The next step is replicating the study.  The step after that is devising a non-harmful way to test for elevated protein levels in the living.  The step after that is to do a double-blind study on the living and see if there's any correlation between protein levels and outcomes.

The serious link to CTE would come IF that double-blind study revealed that the longer (and higher levels) football was played, the higher the protein levels, and the worse the early symptoms were.  But that's a ways off yet.

As I remarked elsewhere, this is not a "We understand CTE now" discovery.  This is a "Huh, that's interesting ..." discovery.



September 26th, 2017 at 9:21 PM ^

That was a hypothetical.  I would want such a study to draw from all kinds of backgrounds, including football players, soccer players, athletes of a non-contact sport (track and field?), sedentary folk, etc.

The hypothetical was intended to say that if such a broad study discovered that the proteins increased markedly when the subject played football, and that subjects with elevated protein levels showed early signs of some sort of degenerative brain illness, then you'd have the connection people are looking for with respect to CTE and football, and the potential beginnings of a diagnosis protocol.


Wisconsin Wolverine

September 26th, 2017 at 8:02 PM ^

We are still trying to find good markers for Alzheimer's pathology. It's challenging to find peripheral factors that we can easily access and measure that robustly reflect the progression of a disease of the brain that takes decades to become symptomatic, but it can be done. Actually, that's a limitation of the study OP linked to - doing the histology on postmortem brains is a good first step, but we need to be able to examine something in the blood or CSF. Or there could be characteristic brain activity or metabolism that we could see with MRI or PET. Anyway, the NIH and NIA (and others) are aggressively funding this problem, and there are a lot of talented and determined people working on it. I have a pretty positive outlook that the next one or two decades will yield big changes.


September 26th, 2017 at 7:24 PM ^

CTE threads, Rich Rod threads and anything WolverineDevotee posts always ends in a flamewar.

This board has a large number of CTE deniers. Their arguments usually center around how they played football and are fine, concussions in girl's soccer and how you shouldn't let your kid ride a bike if football is dangerous.


September 27th, 2017 at 11:19 AM ^

I'm not a CTE denier. 

I realize that CTE is a problem. I also realize that the NFL covered it up. I fully support efforts to protect athletes heads. 

What I deny is the idea that one shouldn't let one's kids play football, or that we know it is a rampant issue in all levels of contact sports. 

You talk about how people say 'they played football and are fine'. Fair enough. It's an ad hoc argument. But I think it reflects kind of a 'back of the envelope' calculation that even Carl Sagan said was a good way to lead you to the truth while you wait for better data. 

I'd bet that since football started literally millions of people have played at the elementary through HS level, and not had CTE symptoms or life altering injuries. We have yet to have conclusive studies of the CTE danger at that level. We have had legit scientists say that we didn't have enough data yet, and that they weren't worried at the elementary through HS level. We *do* know that concussions happen in other sports, like soccer, at greater rates than we have previously thought. Yet I have heard from *many* that 'Oh no I'd NEVER let my son play pop warner! His brain!!! He'll play soccer instead...'

Saying that you don't think football (Or any other contact sport) is overly dangerous given our current level of understanding, and the decades of empirical evidence on hand, does not put you on the same level as a climate change denier or a flat earther. 


Just my $0.02


September 26th, 2017 at 7:10 PM ^

Nothing like using a lack of conditional statement understanding upon which to base your treatment.

The converse of a true statement is not necessarily true.  In other words, let's assume "If has CTE, then has these proteins" is true.  It is not necessarily the case that "if has these proteins, then has CTE" is also true.


September 26th, 2017 at 7:44 PM ^

The test procedure they want to devise is to check the validity of the contrary position, namely "If proteins, then CTE".

This is not a "We understand CTE now" discovery.  This is a "Huh, that's interesting ..." discovery.



September 26th, 2017 at 8:00 PM ^

First you test a range of relatively easily testable ideas to see if you find correlates. It's relatively cheap and its low hanging fruit. You then test for directional relationships between the most likely correlate with the outcome. Then you invest the time and the money in the double-blind study or control group or whatever type of study is feasible and ethical given what is being tested. All along the way you replicate when possible.

People are usually so quick to note the obvious limitations of the first study, which is silly. It's like crapping on the first idea out of the brainstorming phase of product development or complaining about the production values of a pilot episode.


September 26th, 2017 at 9:24 PM ^

Right now, one of the biggest issues with CTE research is that you can only diagnosis it post-mortem from the selected set of people who donate their brains to science.

The hope is that the elevated protein levels are strongly correlated with CTE and a test can be devised to sample the protein levels in the living (e.g. blood or CSF).



September 27th, 2017 at 12:47 AM ^

PCP=brain damage.

Crack=brain damage.

Meth=brain damage.

Excessive alcohol=brain damage.

Huffing Dustoff, paint, glue=brain damage.

I missed a few, but you know what I mean. Sports aren't the only cause of CTE.

When I played football, we were taught to tackle with our shoulders. Rugby players avoid head to head contact for survival.

I believe football will still be a great, competitive sport when they aggressively eliminate contact to the head and contact with the head. The hard hit on Wilton Speight while he was sitting on the ground should have triggered an ejection.

Get football to the point where a player doesn't even think about contact to the head or contact with the head. Three strikes and you're out for the season. Whatever it takes. There's a way to make football much safer. It can still be an exciting contact sport.