Another former NFL player is making the news for announcing his commitment to donating his brain to science after his death.
It is easy to applaud Warren Sapp for his unselfish support of medical research. The same “feel-good” recognition can also be expressed for the numerous other professional athletes who have already pledged to this as well. More brains to objectively examine clearly adds to the science; and the resulting insights could reveal more than we currently know on the long-term and sometimes permanent neuropathological effects from years of head impact exposure.
Sapp, like others, is likely largely motivated from what he has witnessed in his NFL colleagues, as well as his own concerns regarding memory and other symptoms that might be related to initial onset of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). But the key is to get better insight in the living – not just in postmortem donated brain tissue. Emerging technology – imaging, biomarkers, and advanced analytics – can give us new insight regarding the initiation and early progression of brain pathology, BEFORE measurable impairment of brain function and other expressed symptoms of neurological disease. This could also lead to potential therapeutic solutions.
Warren Sapp’s commitment is appreciated; but, we can learn a lot from his living brain (and those from numerous others) by using a variety of non- or minimally invasive technology and diagnostics now – not just in 30 or more years!
Dr. Michael Bergeron, Senior Vice President of Development & Applications