Fall is synonymous with football, and football, unfortunately, has become synonymous with concussion injuries. In recent years, the medical and scientific communities have unearthed an alarming association between recurring concussions and a neurodegenerative disease that is extremely common in players, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.
The controversy surrounding CTE and its prominence among football players has been heavily scrutinized as of late, especially because CTE has been blamed for a number of player tragedies. Thought to be primarily caused by repeated blows to the head, CTE occurs in football players more often than was originally thought—a recent study found that of the 111 NFL players who donated their brains to research after their death, 110 of them lived with CTE. Until now, there has been no way to test for CTE until after death, but researchers believe they may have found a biomarker that could ultimately lead to CTE diagnosis in living humans.
Researchers at Boston University identified elevated levels of the protein CCL11 in former football players who were diagnosed with CTE after death. This protein is linked to other neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and ALS, but it is found at significantly higher levels in the brain of those affected by CTE. While a clear connection between how elevated CCL11 levels could cause CTE has not been identified, the newly discovered biomarker is extremely promising for future research.