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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

Diagnostic Tools, NFL Players and Concussions

Researchers continue to develop new tools, and find new ways to observe and measure information actually or potentially relevant to identifying the presence of conditions or diseases. A new example is particularly topical as it relates to using PET scans to evaluate NFL players who have suffered concussions. The news is set out in an April 7, 2015 story at ScienceDaily. The introduction states the following:

“A new UCLA study takes another step toward the early understanding of a degenerative brain condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, which affects athletes in contact sports who are exposed to repetitive brain injuries. Using a new imaging tool, researchers found a strikingly similar pattern of abnormal protein deposits in the brains of retired NFL players who suffered from concussions.

The innovative imaging technique uses a chemical marker combined with positron emission tomography, or PET scan, and was initially tested in five retired NFL players and described in an article published in 2013. Now, building on their previous work, the UCLA researchers found the same characteristic pattern in a larger number of retired players who had sustained concussions.

The latest study also shows that the brain imaging pattern of people who have suffered concussions is markedly different from the scans of healthy people and from those with Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers say the findings could help lead to better identification of brain disorders in athletes and would allow doctors and scientists to test treatments that might help delay the progression of the disease before significant brain damage and symptoms emerge.”

C Jorge R. Barrio, Gary W. Small, Koon-Pong Wong, Sung-Cheng Huang, Jie Liu, David A. Merrill, Christopher C. Giza, Robert P. Fitzsimmons, Bennet Omalu, Julian Bailes, and Vladimir Kepe. In vivo characterization of chronic traumatic encephalopathy using [F-18]FDDNP PET brain imaging. PNAS, April 2015 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1409952112

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