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Brain Disease Found in Deceased Ex-NFL Player Sash

Former New York Giants player Tyler Sash had a level of degenerative brain disease similar to that of former NFL player Junior Seau, according to a report Tuesday in The New York Times.

Boston University’s Concussion Legacy Foundation notified Sash’s family last week of the discovery of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, in Sash’s brain, the Times reported. CTE can only be confirmed posthumously. Sash died last September at the age of 27 from an accidental overdose of pain medications.

From the Times:

Dr. Ann McKee, chief of neuropathology at the V.A. Boston Healthcare System and a professor of neurology and pathology at the Boston University School of Medicine who conducted the examination, said Tuesday that the severity of the C.T.E. in Sash’s brain was about the same as the level found in the brain of the former N.F.L. star Junior Seau, who committed suicide in 2012 at age 43.

On a CTE severity scale of 0 to 4, Sash’s brain was at Stage 2. The only case similar to Sash near his age was found in a 25-year-old former football player, McKee told the newspaper.

Related: Concussion Concern: LB Retires After One NFL Season

A standout defensive back at the University of Iowa, Sash won a Super Bowl ring with the Giants as a rookie after the 2011 season. The Giants cut Sash in 2013 after he suffered his fifth known concussion, and he returned to his home in Iowa, often displaying erratic behavior. He had trouble sleeping because of injuries to his shoulders and was not able to hold down a job.

“(The CTE diagnosis) helps explain his inattention, his short fuse and his lack of focus,” McKee told the Times. “Even though he was only 27, he played 16 years of football, and we’re finding over and over that it’s the duration of exposure to football that gives you a high risk for CTE. Certainly, 16 years is a high exposure.”

In a statement released with the findings of Sash’s CTE, his mother, Barnetta Sash, said in the Times: “My son knew something was wrong, but he couldn’t express it. He was such a good person, and it’s sad that he struggled so with this — not knowing where to go with it. Now it makes sense. The part of the brain that controls impulses, decision-making and reasoning was damaged badly.”

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