NFL Player is the First Living CTE Diagnosis


For the first time, scientists claim they have evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) found in a living patient. This would be a breakthrough in the research into the slowly progressive brain disease linked to repeated blows to the head.

A study of 14 retired NFL players, published in the medical journal Neurosurgery, found that a signature protein of CTE, known as tau, forms around the damaged neural cells. Doctors diagnosed one of the players, unnamed in the study, with CTE. The player was later identified by the lead author of the study, Dr. Bennet Omalu, as Vikings linebacker Fred McNeill, who died of ALS in 2015 at age 63. Fred McNeill’s family also confirmed that information.

CTE, which is associated with memory loss, depression and dementia, could only be diagnosed posthumously, prior to this finding.

According to the publication, the subject had played for 22 years, which included 12 years in the NFL. He began attending law school during his final season with the NFL. He had only one reported concussion throughout his career, which occurred while he was in college.


After graduating from law school McNeill was made partner at the second law firm he joined, before being dismissed after approximately four years for inadequate performance — a scenario to be repeated at least twice before he suspended his legal career and filed for bankruptcy.

At age 59, when he underwent the experimental brain scan, he was already exhibiting severe symptoms of CTE, including impaired motor skills that were so diminished that he was unable to feed himself.

The Impact of the Study

Further research is needed to corroborate the conclusion, but presented it is an important step toward the development of a reliable diagnostic technique and possibly treatments, as was acknowledged by Julian Bailes, a neurosurgeon at Evanston’s North Shore University Health System who participated in the study.

“It’s only one case report, but that’s the way science sees it,” Bailes said in an interview with USA Today. “There’s more understanding, but this is a nice demonstration of the correlation of a living scan and an autopsy of the brain.”

Notably, the evidence is based on an individual case and relies on a brain scan that was performed 52 months prior to the patient’s death. Considering the progressive nature of CTE, the span of time is significant. Also, researchers used symptoms of depression and motor skills damage and other clinical indications to make the diagnosis.

Researchers at Boston University and the Boston Veterans Affairs health system found in a study, published in July, CTE was present in 110 of 111 deceased NFL players’ brains that were donated to scientific research. However the fact that the sample was comprised of donated brains from former players who, according to loved ones, had already exhibited signs of CTE, led researchers to warn that the study could not be used to accurately assess the number of football players who develop CTE.

In a separate study conducted by Boston University School of Medicine in September of this year, found that children who begin playing football before age 12 are twice as likely to develop cognitive and emotional problems compared to those who join the sport later.

Recent Scrutiny

Participation in football and the link to CTE has been under recent scrutiny since high profile cases emerged, such as Frank Gifford’s posthumous diagnosis and the suicides of Junior Seau, Dave Duerson and convicted killer and former NFL player, Aaron Hernandez. For the first time the NFL acknowledged a connection between football and CTE after a March 2016 settlement of an estimated $1 billion settlement of thousands of concussion lawsuits, opening the gate to payouts for over 20,000 retired players.

If you or a loved one played football or any other contact sport and have experienced any adverse symptoms such as motor control issues, memory loss, blurred vision or slurred speech, see a neurologist right away if you have not already. Then consult with an experienced brain injury attorney to discuss your legal options. There may be monetary compensation available.

The brain injury lawyers at Vititoe Law Group have helped countless clients who have suffered from sports related and other brain injuries. Call today for a free consultation at 818-851-1886. No recovery – No fee.

By |2018-05-24T18:49:18-07:00December 20th, 2017|Brain Injury|Comments Off on NFL Player is the First Living CTE Diagnosis

More Than 30 Years of Experience Fighting For the Victims of Negligence

Contact Us For A Free Confidential Consultation

Call us at 818-991-8900 or fill out the form below to set up a time to talk with our legal team about your case. If you are unable to come to our office in Westlake Village because of your injuries, we can come to you.

My title page contents