The football world was stunned when former Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas died suddenly 2021 at just 33 years of age after having a seizure. Doctors now know that Thomas’ untimely death was likely linked to CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated head injuries and concussions.
Thomas was diagnosed with CTE posthumously in July, making him the latest in a long line of former NFL players found to have the disease after their deaths.
CTE can only be conclusively diagnosed after death through an autopsy, meaning many players suffer from its symptoms unchecked during their lives. One study found signs of CTE in 110 out of 111 deceased former NFL players’ brains.
To compile a list of 35 professional football players whose deaths are at least partially attributable to CTE, 24/7 Tempo reviewed profiles of players published by the Concussion Legacy Foundation and articles published by Boston University’s CTE Center. We also reviewed archived news stories about deceased football players published on ESPN, CNN, Sports Illustrated, NPR, and other online sources.
Some common CTE symptoms are confusion, impaired judgment, and extreme mood swings including aggression. Several former players on the CTE list had a history of violent behavior, and some even committed murder or suicide. (These are 33 athletes with famously bad tempers.)
In recent years, suicide has been strongly linked to CTE, with at least 12 of the 35 deceased players having taken their own lives. (These are 37 violent celebrity deaths.)
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