While there are some former football players said to be living with Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy (CTE), it’s still a disease that requires a postmortem diagnosis.
Dr. Robert Stern, a professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery at Boston University, indicated to Sports Illustrated’s Peter King that the medical field will be able to “accurately diagnose CTE during a person’s life, perhaps within the next five to 10 years.”
Stern is one of the foremost experts on the still misunderstood affliction that has taken the lives of so many former football players and continues to wreak havoc on others still battling the long-term implications of repeated head trauma.
This is important for a number of reasons.
First off, being able to accurately diagnose CTE will give those suffering from the disease an opportunity to treat it. The primary step to overcoming something like this is awareness. And while it would still be a long road to haul, it’s huge in the overall process of overcoming such a dark disease.
Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett was diagnosed with CTE in a preliminary manner after undergoing brain scans at UCLA back in 2013.
His personal experience could help pave the way for others to battle the disease in a more successful manner:
“I’m in the fight, man. I’m not just laying around letting this overtake me,” Dorsett said regarding his battle. “I’m fighting. I’m in the battle. I’m hoping we can reverse this thing somehow.”
Secondly, Stern’s positive outlook on this situation likely won’t narrow any gaps that exist between his stance on the NFL’s handling of CTE and the league’s opinion that he’s a biased observer.
As Pro Football Talk points out, the NFL pulled $30 million in funds allocated to the National Institutes of Health and a study that was to be led by Dr. Stern himself. The NFL’s reasoning for this was the NIH’s unwillingness to conclude that Stern has bias against the league itself.
This has led the United States Congress to demand the NFL give further reasoning behind the about-face.
As the medical field and the NFL continue to be at odds over CTE and with lawsuits filling civil court dockets around the nation, research independent of the league needs to continue.
In this, Dr. Stern seems more than prepared to leave the NFL in the dustbin when it comes to further breakthroughs.
All this might sound great, but Dr. Stern also made sure to tell King that we are at the infancy of research regarding CTE. It’s not something that’s going to be clearly addressed over the next five or 10 years.
Instead, being able to diagnose it in living humans has to be the first step in what will be a long process to understanding the affliction.