Researchers from the Sports Legacy Institute for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, working in partnership with Boston University have confirmed that Tom McHale (an ex-NFL veteran) who died in 2008, aged 45, was suffering from a degenerative brain condition similar to Alzheimer’s disease which has been linked to repeated head trauma.
Although Police said that the actual cause of death was OxyContin and Cocaine (which he took after developing chronic pain in his shoulders and other joints), an autopsy showed up the damage to his brain. The condition, which is caused by repeated trauma and can be diagnosed only in dead patients or by an invasive biopsy, is characterized by tangles of nerve fibers in the brain’s cortex. The symptoms can include memory loss, depression and dementia similar to Alzheimer’s disease and are typically found in elderly people in their 80s and in boxers suffering from dementia.
The NFL is currently funding an independent medical study of retired NFL players in an effort to understand this issue.