By Ken Reed
Kevin Turner, a veteran NFL player, died from the most advanced stage of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a disease linked to repetitive head trauma.
He was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in 2010 and died earlier this year — from CTE not ALS.
“The severity of Mr. Turner’s CTE was extraordinary and unprecedented for an athlete who died in his 40s,” said Ann McKee of Boston University and the Concussion Legacy Foundation.
“While he had typical cognitive symptoms and problems with impulse control associated with CTE, it also appears that CTE decimated the motor cortex of his brain at a young age, likely leading to ALS symptoms.”
CTE has been diagnosed in 91 of 95 professional football players who donated their brains for CTE research at the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank and the Concussion Legacy Foundation. The disease can present with Alzheimer’s-like symptoms including dementia, memory loss, mood swings, aggression and depression. Some people theorize that Lou Gehrig himself actually had CTE, not ALS. Gehrig played football at Columbia University and suffered multiple concussions during his football and baseball careers.
While much of the focus regarding brain trauma in football centers on concussions, researchers believe that CTE is a result of repetitive sub-concussive blows to the head, which then result in a buildup of the abnormal protein tau found in CTE.
Turner was convinced playing football was the cause of his neurological problems.
“I was the one telling these parents that it’s a safe game to play. ‘Look at me. I’ve been playing since I was 5,’ and turned out I was wrong,” Turner said in a 2013 interview. “I was just so dead wrong about the hits to the head thing. I feel ignorant now.”
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of FansPrint
- League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.