Bubba Smith, NFL's 'Gentle Giant,' Had CTE When He Died

Player-turned-actor was one stage away from full-blown dementia: researchers
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 24, 2016 2:08 PM CDT
Bubba Smith, NFL's 'Gentle Giant,' Had CTE When He Died
This 1972 file photo shows Baltimore Colts defensive end Bubba Smith.   (AP Photo/File)

Before he played Moses Hightower in the Police Academy franchise, Charles "Bubba" Smith took some hard hits on the football field as a Pro Bowl player and defensive end for the Baltimore Colts, among other teams. And those hits during his 10 seasons in the league were apparently enough to do permanent damage: Researchers announced Tuesday that Smith was suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, when he died in 2011, USA Today reports. Scientists at the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank—which the New York Times notes released results Tuesday with the permission of the executor of Smith's estate—says Smith had stage 3 CTE, one stage away from full-blown dementia and with symptoms including issues with executive functions. "Prior to his death, Smith was reported to have developed significant cognitive decline, including memory impairment and poor judgment," a news release says, per USA Today. "He was also unable to complete many tasks of daily living on his own, such as paying bills, shopping, or traveling."

After his NFL retirement in 1976, Smith went on to enjoy a second career in acting—not only in the Police Academy movies, but also in commercial and TV work, including Miller Lite commercials and shows like Good Times and Charlie's Angels. When he died at the age of 66 of acute drug intoxication from weight-loss pills, doctors said he also had high blood pressure and heart disease, per ESPN. The VA-BU-CLF facility, a joint initiative by Boston University, the Concussion Legacy Foundation, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, has studied the brains of 94 ex-NFL players, and Smith is the 90th one it's found to have CTE. (Even the NFL isn't denying the link between football and CTE anymore.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.