TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- Aggression, memory loss and depression. All are symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE.

It’s a disease many retired football players face from repeated hits to the head.

[WATCH: ASU doctor finds new way to see CTE in brain before death]

After one of his own family members started showing signs of CTE, Dr. Diego Mastroeni, assistant research professor at Arizona State University, started looking for a better way to test for it.

Currently, the only way to diagnose CTE is by examining the brain after death.

In collaboration with other doctors from Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Boston University, Mastroeni injected a special radioactive dye into 26 retired football players.

From there, the dye goes into the brain and attaches to proteins left from repetitive concussive hits.

Under a brain scan, for the first time they could see concussion damage in living patients

He says knowing it's there is the first step in treating it.

“Just to be able to follow the disease process, but also for drug intervention, for the utility of medication, are they working, are they helping the patient?” said Mastroeni.

He says just having the diagnosis can be comforting for people who may be struggling with the frightening symptoms of CTE.

“I think we all want to know what we have and what's going on. We just want answers. Not only clinically for them, but spiritually.  Just to know that they're OK and there's something that we can do. Maybe they can prepare for something,” said Mastroeni. 

The procedure still has a long way to go before it's FDA approved. The next step is getting 100 players to sign up to take the test. They would need more funding to make that possible.

 


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