Many NFL players who have died in the past 20 years have been diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy
By Emmanuel Cordova, Staff Writer
Over the past decades, many football players have suffered from a horrific disease called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy; in continues to spread as a research shows that 87 out of 91 NFL players tested positive for CTE in 2015.
CTE was discovered by Dr. Bennet Omalu, and according to an article of the New York Times, 12 NFL stars who passed away all suffered some sort of CTE. It is a disease that affects the brain and is found in athletes, military veteran, and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma. Brain trauma can cause the growth of a protein called tau that slowly kills brain cells. Possible symptoms include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgement, paranoia, impulse control problem, aggression, and dementia. These symptoms can start to show months, years or even later in a person’s lifetime, but can only be diagnosed after death by a brain-tissue analysis.
Mike Webster, who played center for the Pittsburgh Steelers for 16 seasons, past away in 2002 at 50 due to a heart attack. He was one of the first players, along with his former teammate Terry Long, to be diagnosed with CTE by Omalu. This autopsy is what sparked the ongoing conversation about players’ safety and concussion protocol.
Tyler Sash, who played with the New York Giants and won a Super Bowl with them, died in 2015 at the age of 27 due to a painkiller overdose. After his death, his family agreed to donate his brain to Boston University where researchers discovered that his CTE was in an advanced stage, which is rarely seen in people his age.
Dave Duerson, a 1985 Super Bowl champion killed himself in 2015, also at the age of 50. He had texted his ex-wife Alicia, “Please, see that my brain is given to the NFL’s brain bank.”
His ex-wife said, “I believe he himself knew that there was something wrong with him. When he was found dead they found a suicide note repeating the same request.”
Junior Seau, a 10 time All-Pro who played linebacker for the then San Diego Chargers shot himself in the chest at age 43.
Tom McHale, a former NFL lineman during the 90s, died at age 45 from an overdose of oxycodone and cocaine. According to his wife, he developed chronic pain in his shoulders and other joints, which caused him to begin to take in large doses of painkiller OxyContin. He was suffering from depression as well and started to take cocaine occasionally, so he can feel happy.
“One of the big things that CTE sufferers have is depression,” said former Steeler team physician Julian Bailes. “Many of them end up with alcohol or drug use and abuse. And probably half the time [their life ends] by suicide. So, Psychiatric evaluation, psychiatric care is a big part of trying to get ahead of the problem, I believe. There is no CTE medication.”
The NFL has been making progress in trying to reduce head injuries to its players. They have adopted rules that severely penalize head-to-head contact and targeted hits.
Valley football player Najee Morrison said, “I feel that CTE is a very scary thing because a lot of player go through it, and it can happen to anyone. It brings a little fear to me to think I can get it, but then again I try not to think about it because I know if I did, I’d probably stop playing football. But then again, since I haven’t had any concussions, I feel that I won’t get a CTE.”