Family: Former NFL Star Demaryius Thomas Had Stage 2 CTE

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Melissa McGovern

The family of former NFL Pro Bowl wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who died in December at age 33, said Tuesday that he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

The four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver was dealing with depression, anxiety and other CTE symptoms at the time of his death, according to the Associated Press report.

The degenerative brain disease — which can only be diagnosed after death — has been found in hundreds of former NFL players as well as semi-pro and high school soccer players, the AP reported. Hall of Famers Ken Stabler, Frank Gifford and Mike Webster have been posthumously diagnosed with CTE.

Boston University CTE Center researchers discovered that Thomas was at stage 2 following a brain study through the Concussion Legacy Foundation.

“Once I became aware of CTE and began to familiarize myself with the symptoms, I noticed that Demaryius was isolating himself and I saw other changes in him,” Katina Smith, Demaryius’ mother, said in a statement, as reported by the AP. “He was just so young, and it was horrible to see him struggle. His father and I hope all families learn the risks of playing football. We don’t want other parents to have to lose their children like we did.”

CLF co-founder and CEO Dr. Chris Nowinski arranged the study through Thomas’ family.

“The football community would have no idea why so many former players struggle with neurological disorders after their career without the families who say yes to brain donation, so I want to thank Bobby Thomas and Katina Smith — and all families — for their trust in Dr. McKee and this team,” said Nowinski, a former football player at Harvard. “I hope this is a wake-up call to high profile current and former NFL players that CTE is rampant among them, and they need to get involved in creating real solutions. CTE should be their number one off-the-field issue.”

Thomas is one of more than 300 former NFL players who have been diagnosed with CTE by McKee and the BU CTE Center research team.

The cause of Thomas’ death is still unknown. 

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