NHL, Other Sports Leagues Allegedly Capable of Testing Active Players for CTE

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistFebruary 19, 2015

Chicago Blackhawks' Bob Probert (24) and Los Angeles Kings' Ken Belanger (12) mix it up in the third period Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2001, in Chicago. Both players got 5-minute penalties for fighting.  The Blackhawks won 5-1.  (AP Photo/Fred Jewell)
FRED JEWELL/Associated Press

Although identifying chronic traumatic encephalopathy was once only possible with deceased subjects, a new medical advancement could potentially allow living people to be tested for the concussion-related disease.   

According to TSN's Rick Westhead, UCLA's Dr. Julian Bailes claims that the technology is now available to determine if someone is dealing with CTE. He believes it could be a huge advancement in terms of analyzing the underlying health of pro athletes in the NHL and other professional sports leagues:

This is the holy grail of CTE, to make the diagnosis in living people. It's an intriguing test. But it's not for everyone. People are different. Some people say, 'Why do I want to know I have CTE if there is no cure?' But maybe, if they are an active pro athlete, it may be helpful for a retirement decision. It's a little bit like genetic testing for some diseases. If you're a woman, do you want to know if you have the gene for breast cancer?

Bailes aims to prove the viability of testing living subjects for CTE by publishing a study in the coming days, per Westhead.

Developing the ability to find CTE prior to death is something that Bailes revealed has been in the works for quite some time in an effort to help combat it:

It gets old to diagnose a disease after someone's dead—you can't intervene or help them. It wasn't much fun after a while. When you're diagnosing after death, you can't follow the disease with studies over a period of time. You can't develop treatment or drugs over a period of time. So three years ago, we set aside money for research and worked on a technique at UCLA where we used a special PET scan to detect tau protein, which is associated with CTE.

As seen in this slideshow courtesy of CNN.com, a number of deceased athletes were found to have been dealing with CTE, including Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster, San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau and Chicago Blackhawks forward Bob Probert.

While no cures or legitimate treatments have yet been discovered for CTE, testing living patients for the disease is a compelling thought since it could eventually lead to progress on that front.

CTE research is still very much in its infancy, but Bailes' claim could prove to be the greatest breakthrough yet if it is ultimately determined to be legitimate.

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