The "unique pattern" of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the debilitating brain disease known as CTE, has been found for the first time in a patient before he died, NBC News reported.
It was detected in a brain scan of former Minnesota Vikings linebacker Fred McNeill, according to the doctors behind a study published in the journal Neurosurgery last week. The scan could lead to the development of treatments for the incurable disease.
CTE is caused by repeated blows to the head, and has been found in many dead NFL players' brains, including former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez, who killed himself in April before a murder conviction against him was cleared.
So far, the only way to definitively diagnose CTE is by looking at the brain after death, but a 2012 scan of McNeill's brain that seemed to show protein deposits characteristic of CTE was confirmed in an autopsy after McNeill died last year.