Former Iowa safety Tyler Sash, who passed away last September at just 27 years old, was found to be suffering from the degenerative brain condition CTE, according to Bill Pennington of The New York Times. Sash’s cause of death was originally attributed to an accidental mixture of drugs, but Pennington’s report offered more on the post-mortem diagnosis.
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 found in the brain of the former N.F.L. star Junior Seau, who committed suicide in 2012 at the age of 43.
Doctors grade C.T.E. on a severity scale from 0 to 4; Sash was at stage 2. McKee, comparing the results to other athletes who died at a similar age, said she had seen one case, a 25-year-old former college player, with a similar amount of the disease.
The Sash family, who released the findings, said the outcome brought some clarity to the end of Tyler Sash’s life.
“My son knew something was wrong but he couldn’t express it,” Barnetta Sash said Monday night. “He was such a good person, and it’s sad that he struggled so with this – not knowing where to go with it.”
McKee added: “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 C.T.E. Certainly, 16 years is a high exposure.”
People may not want to admit it, but Dr. McKee is right. To play such a high-contact sport like football for most of one’s life, the hits certainly pile up. On top of that, Sash was a safety, one of the hardest-hitting positions of all. Keep in mind that he had 217 tackles in three years at Iowa and also had 13 interceptions returned for 392 yards, plus 27 pass breakups. Combine that with his NFL totals of 25 tackles and all the years of high school and youth football, and the punishment his body took piles up.
It just goes to further prove that there is indeed a concussion problem in football that, while addressed properly on the professional level, needs better handling in the high school and college ranks. That way, sad stories like Sash’s can be avoided.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports