Valley researchers want to change the game when it comes to diagnosing a devastating brain disease caused by some sports injuries.
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, known as CTE, is caused by repeated head trauma, and can result in brain disorders. It's previously only been diagnosed in brains donated after death, but a study underway at the Translational Genomics Research Institute, or TGen, is trying to change that.
"We are trying to use cutting-edge genomics tools to better understand if individuals who are at risk for CTE might have markers, indicators, in their biological fluids," said Matt Huentelman, a researcher at TGen.
The researchers at TGen say detecting CTE in blood, saliva or urine could have a huge impact.
"Knowing early leads to better outcomes," Huentelman said.
Currently, the hard hits sustained in the NFL and in other sports are taking their toll years after the play.
"We used to call it getting our bell rung," said six-year NFL veteran Solomon Wilcots. "Where you felt wow, yeah, that was a real doozy."
Wilcots is healthy, but says some players are suffering.
"It's heartbreaking to see athletes who you played with, who you know were brave, who were courageous, who were tough, who were very physical, to see them decline in their health," Wilcots said.
Wilcots is taking part in the study and is urging others to do the same.
"I have to use my time wisely as I move forward, and that's why I'm here today," Wilcots said.
TGen is still looking for hundreds of participants and will be taking samples in their downtown Phoenix laboratory Friday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. People willing to take part should be 20 years old or older, and can have suffered concussive or non-concussive brain injuries. Those at TGen say that along with athletes, they're also interested in participants who have served in the military.
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