Pro Football Hall of Famers Tony Dorsett and Joe DeLamielleure, and former NFL All-Pro Leonard Marshall have been diagnosed as having signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative condition many scientists say is caused by head trauma and linked to depression and dementia, doctors have told “Outside the Lines.”
The three former stars underwent brain scans and clinical evaluations during the past three months at UCLA, as did an unidentified ex-player whose test results are not yet available. Last year, UCLA tested five other former players and diagnosed all five as having signs of CTE, marking the first time doctors found signs of the crippling disease in living former players.
CTE is indicated by a buildup of tau, an abnormal protein that strangles brain cells in areas that control memory, emotions and other functions. Autopsies of more than 50 ex-NFL players, including Hall of Famer Mike Webster and perennial All-Pro Junior Seau, who committed suicide last year, found such tau concentrations.
Tony Dorsett was one of my favorite football players of all time.We were both about the same age. We were both beginning to work on the careers that would dominate our lives.
Now he may be suffering from a devastating disorder very likely caused by his chosen career.
Chronic Traumatic Encepholopathy (CTE) is due to nasty metabolic cascade resulting in the aftermath of trauma to the brain, like concussions.
It is a scary, progressive disease for which there is no cure. Greater awareness of CTE is having major impact on sports, especially with youth.
Previously, it has only been diagnosed after death. In fact, the initial work occurred with former football players and boxers who often not only suffered severe behavioral changed before death but often committed suicide. The autopsies showed unusual deposition of an important protein called tau.
Now, for the first time, doctors have been able to diagnose CTE in the brains of living people, ones who have already showed some outward signs of CTE.
In one way this is incredibly important, as it shows a way forward for diagnosis, care and possible treatment.
But it does not provide much comfort for those who have been diagnosed. At the moment, there is not a good way forward for them.
We need to find . Soon.