Another Autopsy Links NFL Hits to Brain Damage

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 27, 2009 5:14 PM CST
Lisa McHale, widow of former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Tom McHale.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – A sixth former NFL player has been diagnosed posthumously with a rare brain disease, lending credence to claims that concussions sustained playing football can have a cumulative, even deadly, effect, the Tampa Tribune reports. Tom McHale, who played for the Buccaneers, died from an overdose of painkillers and cocaine in May. But doctors think his poor judgment could have been the result of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, commonly associated with boxers.

CTE has now been diagnosed in all six former players, ages 36 to 50, who donated their brains for study after death, the New York Times notes. It is a rare disease, and doctors don’t see a coincidence. McHale’s brain damage could not have been caused by drug abuse, and his symptoms fit those of CTE. “You would expect the symptoms of lack of insight, poor judgment, decreased concentration,” one doctor said. The NFL says there is as yet too little scientific evidence to draw firm conclusions.