NFL: Former Giants player 'suffered from brain disease linked to repeated head trauma'

Forensic pathologist and neuropathologist Bennet Omalu is credited with discovering chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, in former NFL players.
Forensic pathologist and neuropathologist Bennet Omalu is credited with discovering chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, in former NFL players. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Tyler Sash, who was cut by the New York Giants after several concussions and died of an accidental overdose of pain medications, suffered from the degenerative brain disease CTE, the New York Times reported on Tuesday (Jan 26).

Sash, who was 27 when he died last September, is the latest in a tragic list of former NFL players found to have suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, which is linked to repeated head trauma.

A sixth-round draft pick of the Giants in 2011, he was primarily a reserve for the team during two seasons with the club, including the Super Bowl-winning campaign in the NFL's 2011 campaign.

Sash, who had suffered at least five concussions in his football career by the time the Giants cut him in 2013, had bouts of confusion, memory loss and fits of temper and had trouble keeping a job after returning home to Iowa, his mother Barnetta Sash told the Times.

She blamed much of the behaviour on the powerful prescription drugs he was taking for a football-related shoulder injury that needed surgery, the newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Nonetheless, after his death, she donated his brain to be tested for CTE, which can only be diagnosed posthumously, that has been found in dozens of former NFL players.

According to the report, representatives from Boston University and the Concussion Legacy Foundation notified the Sash family that the CTE diagnosed in Tyler's brain had advanced to a stage rarely seen in someone his age.

The doctor who conducted the examination said the severity of the CTE was about the same as that found in the brain of late Hall of Famer Junior Seau, who committed suicide in 2012 at the age of 43, the Times said.

Some 5,000 former players sued the NFL, claiming it hid the dangers of repeated head trauma, and agreed to a settlement that could cost the league US$1 billion (S$1.44 billion). The settlement is under appeal.

Sash's family would not be eligible for a reward under the terms of the proposed settlement because only the families of players who died and were found to have had CTE before the settlement was approved in April 2015 may receive compensation for that disease, the report said.