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FOXBORO — When researchers at Boston University announced yesterday that they may have found a way to detect chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain trauma commonly referred to as CTE, in living patients, it represented much-needed hope in a critical health issue facing professional football players.
At the moment, CTE can only be diagnosed postmortem.
The topic has been a major one for the better part of a decade, as BU's findings have pointed to an alarming rate of CTE in former players due to repeated concussions. Last week, researchers discovered an advanced case of CTE in former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who committed suicide in prison on April 19.
But even if yesterday's announcement comes to fruition, the decision of when to take a test would not be as clear as one might expect.
"Yes and no," Patriots running back/special teamer Brandon Bolden said of whether or not he'd be interested in learning a diagnosis immediately. "Me, personally, being six years in, I'd go ahead and get it now, just like a measuring stick, like 'How far off am I?' At the same time, you can get some real bad information and cut your career short.
"But we're all about player safety and everybody's well being after football. So, yeah, it would be something, me being in year six, it would be something I'd tell young guys, 'If you don't want to do it right now, certainly down the line.' It might be something everybody needs to get checked out for everybody's well being and those around you."
Rookie defensive lineman Deatrich Wise suffered a concussion in the first preseason game against Jacksonville, but said he wouldn't be in a hurry to take the test.
"No, I would probably wait until after I retire. I would rather just wait," said Wise, who thought the research would be "more secure" by the time he finished playing.
Bolden acknowledged that while it can be a sensitive issue, it's one that needs to remain in the forefront because of the breadth of its reach around football and beyond.
"I think it's across the board. At any point, I've seen (offensive) linemen and (defensive) linemen line up, not even a yard apart from each other, and somebody will walk away with a concussion," Bolden said. "It's all across the board, everywhere. It's player safety. It's really just a tough conversation to have with anybody: playing, not playing, retired, thinking about going into it. It's a tough conversation, but it's something of interest that everybody should be looking into."
Bolden is happy with both the urgency of the work done at BU and the tenor of the discussion, because it's not something the players can solve on their own.
"To be honest with you, when I'm out there playing, the last thing on my mind is CTE," Bolden said. "You're not thinking about it right then. It's a big deal."
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