As the process of evaluating and diagnosing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in living patients inches closer to becoming a reality, current athletes face the possibility of knowing whether they have the disease.
Four players said they would agree to take it, including Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, who offered his reasoning:
"Yeah, sure. I think there are other guys who would say, 'I'm going to play, regardless; CTE is not going to change the way I approach the game, so why would I want that hanging over my head?' I'm in a different position as a QB. My head's not getting hit every play. There are things I can do to avoid that—slide, get out of bounds..."
Seattle Seahawks defensive end Dion Jordan said he wouldn't take it. He also didn't think many active players would do so.
Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Artie Burns offered an interesting response to the question.
"I definitely know I have it," he said. "I'm going to [test positive for] CTE. I don't need a test. Is it going to tell me how much I have? We play a physical sport, man. Humans are not made to run into each other."
Cousins noted if he took the test and it came back positive for CTE, he would walk away from the NFL immediately:
"It's all about timing. If this had been 2015 or '14, I may have said, 'Look, I'm on the cusp of financially being able to help my family; I'm going to stick it out a few more years.' But if you're in Year 9, 10, 11, and you've done a lot of good things, then I think the decision-making changes. It's a fluid situation depending on where you are in your career."
Per Nadia Kounang of CNN, a research study led by Dr. Bennet Omalu confirmed former NFL linebacker Fred McNeill, who played 12 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, was the first living person to be diagnosed with CTE in 2012.
McNeill died in 2015 at the age of 63 due to complications from ALS.
Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long said he would be open to taking a test for CTE, but he cautioned against immediately assigning "predictable behavior" to his results.
"I don't believe it's a slam dunk that if you have CTE you're going to 'lose it,'" he said. "We're probably the last generation that will have no idea what's going on [in our brains]. I think the next generation is really going to know a lot."
In September, researchers at Boston University announced they're developing a method that could aid in diagnosing CTE in living patients. It's unclear how close the method is to being put into practice, as the researchers noted more studies were needed to evaluate certain patterns of the brain.