Mark Duper is the latest ex-NFL star to test positive for signs of CTE -- chronic traumatic encephalopathy -- the former Miami Dolphin confirmed to CBS Sports Friday night.
The 54-year-old former wideout, a three-time Pro Bowler, underwent a battery of tests for two days at UCLA two weeks ago, which revealed he has some mild cognitive impairment. Duper said he learned of the diagnosis Friday afternoon. "It is what it is," said Duper, who less than two years ago beat kidney cancer.
"I'm thinking back on my life and where I am going with this. I have to deal with it and make the best of it. It does make me think of the future and how things are gonna change."
Duper is the fourth former NFL star this week to be diagnosed with signs of CTE . On Wednesday, doctors revealed that Pro Football Hall of Famers Tony Dorsett and Joe DeLamielleure, along with former All-Pro defensive lineman Leonard Marshall, have been diagnosed as having signs of CTE, according to an ESPN report. CTE is a condition caused by head trauma, and is linked to dementia and depression.
These tests for CTE on living former players called PET scans are potential game-changers in the world of neuroscience, according to neurosurgeon Dr. Julian Bailes, a former team physician for West Virginia University and for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"Make a diagnosis while they're living--we hope this kind of testing can be a game-changer," said Dr. Bailes. "I'm the Chairman for Pop Warner's Medical Advisory Board and we feel a big responsibility at the youth level to do everything we can. We hope there will be interest in this sort of testing to make progress on the effects of brain injury in sports.
"The biggest thing is, if we can diagnose CTE, I think they're better off knowing they have it. Most of them don't die from CTE. Many die from suicide. If you can find out you have it, you can manage the symptoms. Getting a good psychiatrist and good professional care can give you insight and help you in how to treat depression."
In his NFL career, Duper caught 511 passes for 8,869 yards and 59 touchdowns in 11 seasons. A former college track star, he only played one season of college football. He says he has no regrets on playing the sport.
"I don't have any regrets about playing," Duper said. "I made a good living off football and I'm still making a living off it. You can't regret something you enjoyed, something you love and I loved football."
Duper said he had noticed some warning signs in recent years with some anger issues. He also said there are times when he'd go to a store and forget why he went there. He said he plans on beginning oxygen therapy treatment in the next few weeks. The former NFL star hopes he can help raise awareness about the issue.
"Hopefully, this can put things into perspective for younger players," Duper added. "The rules are changing--the rules have changed. Players should get themselves tested."