CTE Found in Former Giant Tyler Sash

Tyler Sash, who died at 27, had advanced chronic traumatic encephalopathy


There was more bad news for the NFL Tuesday, as another dead former player’s brain was found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Tyler Sash, 27, died Sept. 8 of an accidental overdose of pain medications in his home in Iowa.

The New York Giants cut Sash in 2013 after his fifth documented concussion. He was with the Giants for two seasons, including the 2011 Super Bowl, and started 37 games from 2007 to 2010 for the University of Iowa.

The sixth-round pick had bouts of confusion, memory loss and issues controlling his temper on occasion, according to The New York Times. Barnetta Sash, Tyler’s mother, told the Times that her son acted like a different person after he was cut from the Giants in the 2013 preseason.

“My son knew something was wrong, but he couldn’t express it,” Barnetta told The Times.

Sash’s mother donated his brain to be tested for CTE, a degenerative brain disease found in athletes with a history of repetitive brain trauma, according to Boston University. Boston University and the Concussion Legacy Foundation notified the Sash family that they found CTE in Tyler’s brain, and that it had advanced to a stage seldom seen in someone his age.

Dr. Ann McKee, chief of neuropathology at the V.A. Boston Healthcare System and a professor of neurology and pathology at the Boston University School of Medicine, who conducted the examination, said the severity of the CTE in Sash’s brain was almost on par with that of former NFL star linebacker Junior Seau. Seau committed suicide in 2012 at the age of 43.

CTE is graded on a scale from 0 to 4. Sash was at stage 2. Sash’s advanced CTE contributed to his shaky memory and difficulty doing routine tasks like composing or reading emails, The Times reports. Behavior like this, as well as impaired judgment, aggression and depression, are all associated with brain degeneration.

"Concussions can result in a variety of symptoms such as a brief loss of consciousness, headache, nausea/vomiting, dizziness, vision changes, light/sound sensitivity, loss of balance, mood/personality changes, poor concentration or mental slowness, lethargy and changes in sleep patterns," Mark Barisa, a board-ceritified neuropsychologist, said.

Sash was on painkillers to combat chronic shoulder pain from NFL-related injuries. Sash played football for 16 years and had five documented concussions, but took a beating playing the sport. Experts believe that hits that are not strong enough to cause a concussion can also significantly contribute to the effects of CTE. These less severe blows to the head are especially disturbing because they often go undiagnosed, The Times reports.

CTE has become a more apparent issue in the NFL in the past few years. A study from the US Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University found that CTE is rampant among football players. About 95 percent of the former NFL players and about 80 percent of all other former football players tested positive for CTE. CTE was also found in 131 of 165 deceased football players.