Tyler Hilinski, who was a Washington State University (WSU) quarterback, tragically committed suicide in January at the age of 21. Serious questions and concerns have been raised after a recent autopsy revealed he had signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease commonly caused by repeated physical trauma. According to the medical examiner, Tyler’s brain condition was akin to a “65-year old” due to the extent of damage and degeneration. CTE has been linked to a number of physical and mental health complications, including behavioral changes that can cause suicidal tendencies.
According to Tyler’s family, he did not show any clear outward signs of depression, anxiety, or any other permanent mental health issue. The news of his suicide came as a shock to them. WSU has since increased its efforts to provide counseling and mental health screenings to football players.
(You can learn more about Tyler Hilinski’s story by clicking here and viewing a full article on ESPN.com.)
The Prevalence of CTE in Football Players
In recent years, major concerns over CTE and football play have arisen. Certain studies using autopsy records on deceased NFL players have found more than 90% of players had some stage of CTE at the time of their death. In other cases, the percentage has been reported as higher than 95%. When cases like Hilinski’s are considered alongside other studies and evidence, the lifelong dangers of high-impact sports are clear. As someone who was only 21-years old at the time of his death, it is troubling to discover he had already developed CTE.
Career football players, such as those signed to NFL teams, are faced with a high risk of CTE in pursuit of their paycheck. The matter is even more complicated in considering that it is notoriously difficult for NFL players to get long term disability benefits. Many players are faced with the unfair decision of struggling to find disability insurance coverage and risking failure, or continuing play and risking worsening their medical conditions. CTE in particular will progressively worsen over time, but the rapidity of its advancement will be increased with each serious impact or collision.
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