From PBS’s Frontline:
Brain scans performed on five former NFL players revealed images of the protein that causes football-related brain damage — the first time researchers have identified signs of the crippling disease in living players.
Researchers who conducted the pilot study at UCLA described the findings as a significant step toward being able to diagnose the disease known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, in living patients.
“I’ve been saying that identifying CTE in a living person is the Holy Grail for this disease and for us to be able make advances in treatment,” said Dr. Julian Bailes, co-director of NorthShore Neurological Institute in Evanston, Ill., and one of the study’s co-authors. “It’s not definitive and there’s a lot we still need to discover to help these people, but it’s very compelling. It’s a new discovery.”
If it turns out that we can now diagnose CTE in living patients — and that remains to be confirmed, I hasten to add — I think the NFL’s days as America’s Sport are numbered. I don’t think pro football could be either regulated or sued out of existence, but I think it probably would move well away from the center of popular culture toward the fringes. Put another way, well-off and middle-class kids would find other things to do with their time because their well-off and middle-class parents would probably insist on it, and a lot of the NFL’s current audience would find other things to do with its time as well, and so there would go the big advertisers and there would go most of the big money.
And there would still be young people poor and/or desperate enough to play the game for money even in the face of incontrovertible evidence that it was damaging their brains and shortening their lives.