This is major:
Brain scans performed on five former NFL players revealed images of the protein that causes football-related brain damage -- the first time researchers have identified signs of the crippling disease in living players.
Researchers who conducted the pilot study at UCLA described the findings as a significant step toward being able to diagnose the disease known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, in living patients.
"I've been saying that identifying CTE in a living person is the Holy Grail for this disease and for us to be able make advances in treatment," said Dr. Julian Bailes, a Chicago neurosurgeon and one of the study's co-authors. "It's not definitive and there's a lot we still need to discover to help these people, but it's very compelling. It's a new discovery."
I don't know if this will change anything, right now. But telling a player "You have CTE" is a lot different than "You stand some chance of developing it."
There's something more; presumably, if they really learn how to diagnose this, they will be able to say exactly how common it is for football players--and maybe athletes at large--to develop CTE. This is when you start thinking about football and an existential crisis. I don't know what the adults will do. But you tell a parent that their kid has a five percent chance of developing crippling brain damage through playing a sport, and you will see the end of Pop Warner and probably the end of high school football. Colleges would likely follow. (How common are college boxing teams these days?)
After that, I don't know how pro football can stand for long.