What BU’s Breakthrough In CTE Research Could Mean For Football’s Future

The dangers of CTE are well-documented, and its link to football is undeniably clear. But what if players could identify these dangers before it’s too late?

Those are the implications of a major breakthrough by Boston University researchers, who say they have developed a method that might be able to diagnose the dangerous brain disease in living patients.

TSN’s Rick Westhead shared part of BU’s findings Tuesday, explaining that researchers found heightened levels of a certain biomarker in ex-football players which could help distinguish CTE from other diseases and potentially lead to “diagnosis during life.”

In short, there soon could be a time when active NFL players can undergo tests to determine if they have CTE.

So, what does that mean for the sport of football? Right now, CTE only can be discovered in the brain after death — as was the case with Aaron Hernandez, who was found to have a “severe” case of the disease often linked with concussions at the time of his suicide in April.

That Hernandez was only 27 at the time of his death is scary enough. But what if tests found CTE in living ex-football players, or even those still in the NFL? Even if many athletes refuse to get tested — which, as Westhead notes, is likely — just one case of CTE in a living patient would be a major deterrent not only to current NFL players, but to younger football players thinking of playing at a higher level.

If you knew you were at serious risk of developing CTE — a disease linked to memory loss, depression and suicide — would you still continue playing? And would the next generation of athletes still pick up football knowing what could be in store for them?

We might not know these answers for quite some time. But as more information becomes available, football’s safety issue will become increasingly clear — and potentially put the future of the sport in jeopardy.

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Thumbnail photo via Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports Images

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