An ex-New York Giants player who died at the age of 27 in September after accidentally ODing on pain meds suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy—and was at an advanced stage of the brain disease rarely seen in someone so young, the New York Times reports. Dr. Ann McKee, the Boston neuropathology chief who led the exam on Tyler Sash's brain, said Tuesday that researchers from Boston University found his CTE ranked at Stage 2, the same level found in the brain of NFL great Junior Seau, who killed himself in 2012. "My son knew something was wrong, but he couldn't express it," Barnetta Sash tells the Times, which notes Tyler Sash had suffered multiple concussions. "Now it makes sense. The part of the brain that controls impulses, decision-making, and reasoning was damaged badly."
The AP notes that CTE, which can only be IDed posthumously, is linked to repeated brain trauma and can cause everything from memory loss and impaired judgment to depression. Sash's irregular behavior continued to deteriorate after he was cut from the Giants in 2013 and returned home to Iowa. His mom attributed his issues to strong meds he was taking to ease severe shoulder pain. Even though he was so young to be at such an advanced stage of the disease, McKee notes Sash played football for 16 years. "We're finding over and over that it's the duration of exposure to football that gives you a high risk for CTE," she tells the Times. "Certainly, 16 years is a high exposure." As Deadspin puts it, Sash's brain "was just as injured as his shoulders." (A 25-year-old football player had the "worst CTE" a doctor had ever seen in someone so young.)