Former New York Giants safety Tyler Sash—who died in September of an accidental painkiller overdose at age 27—had stage 2 chronic traumatic encephalopathy when he died, according to researchers at Boston University. The researchers told Sash’s family that it was rare to see as severe of CTE in such a young brain, coming up with only one example in the hundreds of brains they’ve studied. Stage 2 is the same severity of the degenerative brain disease that former San Diego Chargers great Junior Seau had when he committed suicide at age 43.
The New York Times relays these facts in a harrowing story about Sash’s life after being cut by the Giants, and the toll football took on it. Sash only played for the Giants for two seasons after a standout career at the University of Iowa, but overall he played football for 16 years. He suffered five documented concussions, and likely dozens if not hundreds of the sub-concussive impacts that are increasingly understood to be major contributing factors to brain injuries.
After his NFL career was cut short, Sash returned to Iowa, where he struggled to find work. He was taking painkillers because of chronic injuries to both shoulders, and while the shoulder injuries limited his ability to do manual labor, his inability to focus prevented him from doing any other work. His mother attributed his mental problems—he was forgetful, struggled reading emails, and “didn’t quite seem to be the same person he used to be”—to his regimen of painkillers. But as the examination of his brain makes clear, it was just as injured as his shoulders.
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