Dave Mirra, the legendary BMX star who killed himself in February, had chronic traumatic encephalopathy—a disease more commonly seen in football players and boxers, ESPN reports. He's believed to be the first action sports athlete to be diagnosed with it. "The key is brain injury," says the neuropathologist who diagnosed Mirra. "Regardless of how you get it, through BMX or hockey, you are at risk for this." Mirra suffered numerous concussions throughout his BMX career. He once described a 2006 crash to the Washington Post by saying, “I basically fell 16 feet straight to my head.” “This is a young man that had a pretty rugged sports career and took a lot of injuries," USA Today quotes a friend as saying.
Mirra's diagnosis of CTE was confirmed by multiple neuropathologists, though it's unclear what stage the disease was in. Scans of Mirra's brain showed the same tau protein deposits as those in the brains of former football players. CTE, which is only able to be diagnosed after death, can cause depression, dementia, and memory loss. Mirra's wife Lauren says Mirra underwent major mood and personality changes in the year before he killed himself at 41. “We ask for your continued support in honoring Dave’s legacy and for your patience as we plan to create a platform for CTE awareness and research," reads a statement from Lauren, per USA Today. Mirra, who "was the face of his sport," will be inducted into the National BMX Hall of Fame next month. (Also on Tuesday, Bubba Smith was announced as the 90th former NFL player to be diagnosed with CTE.)