An autopsy has revealed that three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who was found dead in his hotel room in February, had chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
Jackson spent 12 years in the NFL with both the Chargers and the Buccaneers but never accrued a single diagnosed concussion during his career.
According to a report from the Concussion Legacy Foundation, Jackson suffered from Stage 2 CTE.
Jackson’s family reported him missing in February, alleging he was struggling with alcoholism and cognitive health issues. He had been staying in a hotel in Florida for a month and was reportedly suffering from paranoia.
“I think the message is, if you played for a long time and you’re experiencing symptoms, it’s very likely that this is what it is,” Jackson’s widow, Lindsey Jackson told silive.com. “I didn’t know that; Vincent didn’t know that. We thought it was just concussions, and we’d love for people to realize it’s more than that.”
Jackson had reportedly read the findings on studies related to CTE and had refused to let his kids play tackle football.
“Vincent Jackson was a brilliant, disciplined, gentle giant whose life began to change in his mid-30s. He became depressed, with progressive memory loss, problem solving difficulties, paranoia, and eventually extreme social isolation,” Dr. Ann McKee, chief of neuropathology for the VA Boston Healthcare System and director of the BU CTE Center and VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank, said in a statement.
“That his brain showed stage 2 CTE should no longer surprise us; these results have become commonplace,” McKee said of Jackson. “What is surprising is that so many football players have died with CTE and so little is being done to make football, at all levels, safer by limiting the number of repetitive subconcussive hits. CTE will not disappear by ignoring it, we need to actively address the risk that football poses to brain health and to support the players who are struggling.”
Jackson retired from football in 2016 and began a career as a restauranteur.