When Curtis Baushke was in elementary school, he played both baseball and soccer, but he eventually narrowed it down to just soccer, partly because "he wanted to play a safe sport" after being hit by a few baseball pitches, his dad tells the New York Times. But Curtis, talented at setting up goals by heading balls into the air, had been knocked out while playing three times over 14 years, by his own count—two of those times after slamming into another player. And by the time he wrote a college paper at age 19 about his soccer experiences, he suspected the "horrendous migraine headaches," mood swings, and depression that had overcome him in recent years were from soccer-related concussions (in conjunction with a head injury inflicted by a classmate).
In the heartbreaking Times article, Bill Baushke says his son often "had his bell rung [during games], sat out a couple of plays, and was told to go back in." His family says even though Curtis insisted he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE—a brain disease more commonly associated with football players or boxers—they figured he was wrongly self-diagnosing; specialists and a brain scan had found nothing wrong. But Curtis started to go downhill: He lost his job and became reliant on prescription drugs after a disc golf injury. He died last year at the age of 24 from a drug overdose, and researchers from Boston University's CTE Center studied his brain and found he had Stage 2 CTE. "I cried and cried," his mother tells the Times. "Curtis wasn't just making it up and talking crazy. He thought he had it, and he did." Read his sad story in full.