Updated:
Original:

Former Viking Fred McNeill was first confirmed case of CTE in a living patient

Fred McNeill played 12 season in MN – and battled ALS during the final years of his life.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the type of brain damage plaguing the NFL and turning the lives of former players to hell, has always been confirmed after a player's death.

But one study published this week says researchers were able to diagnose CTE in a former player while they were still living – and it's a former Minnesota Viking whose slide into dementia before death was well-chronicled. 

Fred McNeill played linebacker for Minnesota over the course of 12 seasons. He was a first-round pick out of UCLA, and appeared in two Super Bowls with the Vikes.

He died in November of 2015, at the age of 63, after a long battle with ALS.

On Thursday, it was revealed that a former player had been tentatively diagnosed with CTE via an experimental brain scan in 2012, CNN reports. An autopsy after his death confirmed that diagnosis.

It's the first time CTE is confirmed to have been diagnosed in a living person. 

And while he's not named in the report, that person, according to CNN, is McNeill.

They were able to tell because the 2012 scan showed spots on McNeill's brain that appeared damaged, USA Today explains. The autopsy found the protein associated with CTE in those exact same spots of the brain.

“There’s more to understanding, but this is a nice demonstration of the correlation of a living scan and an autopsy of the brain," Julian Bailes, co-director of NorthShore University Health System, told USA Today Sports.

The study's findings were recently published in the journal Neurosurgery.

The final years of McNeill's life were difficult. 

A CNN story shortly after his death was titled "The tragedy of Fred McNeill." It describes McNeill – who became a lawyer after his football career – slowly losing his memory, getting headaches and uncharacteristically losing his temper.

If doctors are able to identify CTE in living players, that could be a huge step for the NFL, SB Nation says.

Those with early markers could be told they can't play, which might lessen CTE's effect later in their lives. It could also lead to better treatment.

GQ wrote a devastating account well before McNeill died, stories of repeated conversations, failed neurological tests, and the decline of a once brilliant man.

"She had no idea, back then, that he was sick. She had no idea he was losing his mind. Something neurological, the doctors are now saying, some kind of sludge blocking pathways in his brain. Would it have made a difference if she knew? Of course it would have. But you can't think like that. And you can't give a s--t about people whispering behind your back."

Next Up

uprooted tree in Burnsville

NWS: Tornadoes confirmed to have struck Apple Valley, Burnsville

A crazy night of storms may have included even more tornadoes.

police lights

Man charged with manslaughter after fistfight ends in death

The incident happened at a veterans housing complex in Chisholm.

Concert

Ellison reaches $1.9M settlement with StubHub over COVID cancellations

The ticket reselling giant will pay $1.87 million in refunds for Minnesota events.

Everson Griffen

Everson Griffen injured in car accident after swerving to miss a deer

Griffen was involved in the crash Thursday on his way to work.

Screen Shot 2021-09-17 at 8.30.16 AM

DPS sparks furore with 'not reaching' pouches designed to stop police shootings

The pouches were developed in collaboration with Valerie Castile, whose son Philando was fatally shot by police while reaching for his permit-to-carry.

police lights

Maintenance worker finds 2 bodies in West St. Paul garage

It's unclear how long the bodies were in the garage before being discovered.

Screen Shot 2021-09-17 at 10.42.39 AM

Tree branch falls on tent in Mankato, killing 4-year-old girl

The tree branch fell at approximately 2:30 a.m.

Related

Former Viking Fred McNeill was first confirmed case of CTE in a living patient

Fred McNeill played 12 season in MN – and battled ALS during the final years of his life.

Fred Zamberletti won't be at Vikings game for first time in 51-years

He's the iron man of NFL team doctors -- or any employee for that matter. Fred Zamberletti has attended every Vikings game in franchise history, but his streak of 1,049 straight games will come to end this week. The 79-year old hasn't felt well recently and didn't make the trip to Washington, according to a team source.

Ek9WgMzU0AEckZl

Matt Blair, all-time great Vikings linebacker, dies at 70

Blair starred with the Vikings during his 12-year NFL career.

Former Viking Michael Bennett pleads guilty in fraud case

Former Viking Michael Bennett was part of a group of men who brought bogus tax refund checks to a check cashing store that was actually run by the FBI. Bennett could be sentenced to twenty years in prison but hopes his plea deal will shrink that.