NFL Star Vincent Jackson Had Stage 2 CTE Before Death, Family Says

The neurodegenerative brain disease manifests after frequent blows to the head.

National Football League wide receiver Vincent Jackson had stage 2 chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, before his death, his family said.

Jackson, who played for the San Diego Chargers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers during his time in the NFL, was found dead earlier this year in a Florida hotel room at the age of 38.

His brain was donated to the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank, which researches CTE and reported Thursday that Jackson had stage 2 CTE. The debilitating brain disease is caused by frequent hits to the head and can cause depression, paranoia and memory loss. In 2016, the NFL admitted there is a link between playing football and the brain disorder.

“Vincent dedicated so much of his life to helping others. Even in his passing, I know he would want to continue that same legacy,” Lindsey Jackson, Vincent’s widow, said in a statement to ESPN. “By donating his brain to the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank, we hope to continue to see advancements in CTE research, enabling physicians to diagnose the disease in the living and ultimately find treatment options in the future.”

Jackson suffered from severe symptoms of CTE, said Dr. Ann McKee, chief of neuropathology for the VA Boston Healthcare System and director of the BU CTE Center and VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank.

“Vincent Jackson was a brilliant, disciplined, gentle giant whose life began to change in his mid-30s,” McKee said in a statement. “He became depressed, with progressive memory loss, problem solving difficulties, paranoia, and eventually extreme social isolation.”

“That [Jackson’s] brain showed stage 2 CTE should no longer surprise us; these results have become commonplace,” McKee added. “What is surprising is that so many football players have died with CTE and so little is being done to make football, at all levels, safer by limiting the number of repetitive subconcussive hits. CTE will not disappear by ignoring it, we need to actively address the risk that football poses to brain health and to support the players who are struggling.”

CTE can currently only be diagnosed after a person has died, and has been found in the brains of hundreds of NFL players and other athletes.

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