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An autopsy confirmed a 12-year NFL veteran had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, just as a brain scan four years before his death had indicated, a breakthrough researchers hope will help in their quest to diagnose the disease in the living.

“Our impression has been (CTE) is a very unique pattern” in the scans, said Julian Bailes, co-director of NorthShore University HealthSystem in Evanston, Ill., which has been working with scientists at UCLA to do PET scans of the brains of hundreds of former football players and military members. “This is the first to have that brain specimen correlation.

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