Former Denver Broncos star Demaryius Thomas had stage 2 chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) when he died in December at age 33, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.
Thomas died from what is believed to have been medical complications resulting from a serious car crash he suffered in 2019, although the coroner's office has not released his official cause of death.
Family members and friends told the Times that Thomas started having seizures about a year after the crash.
Doctors from Boston University posthumously diagnosed Thomas with stage 2 CTE, according to the Times, adding that both CTE and seizures from the crash were conditions with which he struggled.
Stage 2 CTE has been associated with symptoms such as paranoia and depression, with stage 4 being the most severe, according to USA Today.
Thomas' family released the findings of Boston University brain study in order to help raise awareness of CTE, according to a press release from the Concussion Legacy Foundation.
"When will athletes, parents, and the public at large stop ignoring the risks of American football and insist that the game be changed to reduce subconcussive hits and that the athletes be comprehensively evaluated at the beginning and end of every season?" said Dr. Ann McKee, chief of neuropathology for the VA Boston Healthcare System and director of the BU CTE Center and VA-BU-CLF/UNITE Brain Bank.
Concussion Legacy Foundation CEO and co-founder Dr. Chris Nowinski added that "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."
Nowinski added: "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 No. 1 off-the-field issue."
Thomas, who was a first-round draft pick for the Broncos in 2010 and played nine seasons with the team, announced his retirement from the NFL last year after a 10-year career, the Times reported. He also played with the Texans, the Patriots, and the Jets.
Thomas was born in Montrose, Georgia. At age 11, his mother and grandmother were sentenced to 20 years and life in prison, respectively, for crack-cocaine distribution charges.
After going to live with a nearby aunt and uncle, Thomas started to play football in order to stay off the streets and keep out of trouble, eventually playing for three seasons at Georgia Tech.
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