The family of former Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas allowed Boston University to study his brain, following his December 2021 death. The examination concluded that Thomas suffered from stage 2 CTE.
“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’s mother, said in a statement released by the Concussion Legacy Foundation. “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.”
Although this implies the epileptic seizure that ended his life at 33 was tied to CTE, the release from the Concussion Legacy Foundation acknowledges that, despite speculation that late-stage CTE can be associated with epilepsy, “it is far more likely that he developed post-traumatic epilepsy after a motor vehicle accident and fall he experienced several years before his death.”
That continues to be the biggest issue with CTE. What does it mean to have it? It remains unclear, more than a decade after it first became a discussion point. And it creates real fear for former players who wonder whether they are walking around with a ticking time bomb inside their skulls.
That said, we know that more than just football players get it. Just last week, it was announced that former MLS player Scott Vermillion had stage 2 CTE. He died of an accidental overdose in 2020.
Soccer has been associated with head trauma for nearly as long as football. Other sports put the brain at risk for injury, from hockey to rugby to lacrosse to auto racing to boxing to MMA, an endeavor that at times becomes far more brutal than any other sport can ever be.
The bottom line is that everyone at this point knows the risks of head trauma, in whichever endeavor it may happen. Although some seem to be actively rooting for CTE to bring down the NFL, no professional player other than Chris Borland — who retired from football seven years ago after one NFL season — has quit playing due to these concerns.