First MLB Player Diagnosed With Brain Disease

Ryan Freel had Stage 2 CTE, researchers say

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 15, 2013 5:30 PM CST

(Newser) – So hockey and football players aren't the only ones endangering their brains. Professional baseball player Ryan Freel also had CTE and may have killed himself over it last year, CNN reports. "The real important issue is that he hit his head multiple times—small hits, big hits, in baseball and outside of baseball," said a researcher behind the finding. Little surprise there: Freel was a free-wheeling player who flung his body around the field, suffered 10 or more baseball concussions and at least one as a child. Freel lived at "one speed, and that was fast speed," his mother said.

Researchers tested Freel's brain tissue and found Stage 2 CTE, which has been linked to memory loss and erratic behavior. Still, scientists warn about over-interpreting: "Whether or not the disease was the cause of or accentuated the depression and substance abuse and impulse problems [Freel had], we don't know," said a neurology professor. But it provides some closure for Freel's mother, who says she wants his daughters to know he didn't kill himself "because he didn't love them." The finding comes as MLB plans to institute a ban against home-plate collissions as early as next year.

Cincinnati Reds' Ryan Freel follows through on a three-run triple off Cleveland Indians' Cliff Lee in the second inning of a baseball game Friday, May 18, 2007, in Cleveland.   (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Cincinnati Reds third baseman Ryan Freel throws to first during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres Friday, May 23, 2008 in San Diego.   (AP Photo/Chris Park)
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