New studies have been released on the brain recently which shed light on how brain scans can be used to detect the types of repeated concussion brain injuries that have been documented in the NFL. New studies from Dr. Gary Small have demonstrated that PET scans can show developing Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in the brain. These PET scans have been around since the 1961 and produce a 3d image or picture of functional processes in the body. The system detects pairs of gamma rays emitted indirectly by a positron-emitting radionuclide (tracer), which is introduced into the body on a biologically active molecule.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is caused by the buildup of tau proteins. These tau proteins have been shown to build up after repeated blows to the head. Scientists have recently developed a nucleotide which will bind with tau and allow the byproducts to be shown on PET scans.
Early detection of these degenerative changes will hopefully raise awareness and increase player safety.