The 20 most notorious cases of CTE (2023)

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a hot topic in sports today. Experts have known this for over a century, but only recently has there been a major public outcry about athletes suffering from mental health issues later in life.

For those unfamiliar with the condition, as simple as can be: CTE comes from too many blows to the head. It doesn't depend on how many diagnosed concussions a person has, but concussions are obviously a problem. Any time an athlete suffers a blow to the head, whether or not they have a diagnosable concussion, there is a risk of developing the proteins that appear in the brain due to CTE.

Decades of this accumulation can cause serious mental illnesses like depression and dementia, leading to irrational, erratic outbursts and even suicidal behavior. Although CTE is most common in soccer and hockey players, many boxers have been diagnosed with the disease, and even baseball players have been diagnosed with CTE-type degenerative diseases.

This is a list of the most well-known cases of athletes with serious brain problems and their actions as a result of CTE. There is some disagreement among professionals as to which athletes have CTE. It is occasionally speculated that athletes who died long ago had the disease, but in some cases there is no way to tell.

Some well-known athletes are not on this list; including Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson and Lou Gehrig. It has been suggested that all three of these former athletes have the disease, but they are not on this list for various reasons.

Some researchers have suggested that while Gehrig suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease), he may also have CTE, which may have accelerated his degeneration. Many note the fact that Gehrig was a multi-athlete for most of his life and suffered many head injuries prior to his baseball career. He didn't make the list because the evidence of having CTE is only vague and speculative.

Muhammad Ali is not here because, despite many experts suspecting he may have CTE, all his doctors insist he has Parkinson's, which is not caused by the disease.

Finally, while some joked and commented that "Iron" Mike Tyson has the condition; Most reject the theory. Many doctors believe that Mike Tyson's personality is the result of something else entirely.

The battle to treat and prevent CTE continues, but so far there is very little evidence that the battle will be won or lost anytime soon. Sports leagues crack down on blows to the head, but fines and bans don't stop that kind of contact. This list is ordered from the speculated, minor, self-diagnosed cases of CTE to the most notorious and proven cases.


20 20. Brett Favre

The 20 most notorious cases of CTE (1)

After many incredible years with the Green Bay Packers, followed by a few passable years with the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings, Favre still holds the NFL record for most consecutive starts by a player. Unfortunately, with so many games under his belt, he has suffered many knockdowns and tackles. In October 2013, he announced that he was struggling with memory loss, leading many experts to speculate that he was suffering from a mild case of CTE.

19 19. Bob Probert

The 20 most notorious cases of CTE (2)

Possibly the greatest NHL player of all time, Bob Probert died in 2010. Months later, when his brain was examined by researchers at Boston University (one of the leading CTE research centers in the United States), they found evidence he was suffering from CTE. Probert faced legal and content issues after his retirement from the NHL, and some have argued that his erratic behavior was the result of brain trauma.

18 18. Ollie Matson

The 20 most notorious cases of CTE (3)

In addition to being an NFL running back, Ollie Matson was a sprint bronze medalist who competed at the 1952 Olympics in Finland. Matson played 17 seasons in the NFL, made six Pro Bowls and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He died of dementia in 2011 and was later revealed to have advanced CTE.

(Video) These NFL Players Tragically Died With CTE Brain Disease

17 17. Bernie Kosar

The 20 most notorious cases of CTE (4)

Bernie Kosar was an NFL quarterback from 1985 to 1996, during which time he won a Super Bowl with the Dallas Cowboys as a backup and was a Pro Bowl selection in 1987. Kosar has had multiple concussions throughout his career and suffered from aches and pains of mental aches and pains. since his retirement. In recent years he has been treated and has advocated treatment methods for other players who have developed CTE.

16 16. Sugar Ray Robinson

The 20 most notorious cases of CTE (5)

One of the most decorated boxers of all time, it is also believed by many to have suffered from severe CTE later in life. "Sugar" Ray fought a total of 198 professional fights between 1940 and 1965, winning 173 of them; many by knockout. While he lived a very luxurious lifestyle during the fight, later in life he suffered financially and contracted Alzheimer's before dying in 1989 aged just 67.

15 15. John Mackey

The 20 most notorious cases of CTE (6)

One of the most dominant tight ends of his day, Mackey played nine seasons for the Baltimore Colts, including two NFL championships and one Super Bowl. A five-time Pro Bowl selector and inducted into the Hall of Famer in 1992, he suffered from advanced CTE in later life until his death in 2011. His wife sued the NFL after his death. Mackey was one of the players whose brain degeneration led to the NFL's "Plan 88," named after his jersey number. This plan essentially earmarked money to help retired NFL players suffering from degenerative diseases that required full-time care.

14 14. Joe Louis

The 20 most notorious cases of CTE (7)

Another boxing hero, former world champion Joe Louis, is said to have suffered from CTE in his later years. He competed in 70 fights between 1934 and 1951, winning 66, and is credited with being one of the first athletes to challenge the racial divide in the United States. Known for his ability to absorb damage in the ring, Louis was known for being "drunk" in his later years. "Punch drunk" was the lay term for CTE-like conditions suffered by boxers after their careers. He suffered well-documented physical and mental breakdowns throughout his post-boxing life, which were attributed to severe mental degeneration and drug use.

(Video) What a Concussion Really Feels Like for an NFL Player

13 13. Reg Fleming

The 20 most notorious cases of CTE (8)

Reg Fleming played for six different teams in the NHL for 23 years and was a tough player, playing from the mid-1950s through the '70s. He died in 2009, and shortly thereafter, researchers at Boston University determined that he had suffered from the condition for decades. Fleming was the first known hockey player to have the disease.

12 12. Andrew "Test" Martin

The 20 most notorious cases of CTE (9)

Professional wrestlers take as many blows to the head as any other group of athletes. WWE wrestler Andrew "Test" Martin was a member of the promotion from 1998 to 2008. Just a year later, in March 2009, he was found dead in his apartment from an oxycodone overdose. After his death, doctors determined he had CTE. He was the second fighter to be diagnosed with the condition post mortem.

11 11. Dave Duerson

The 20 most notorious cases of CTE (10)

Dave Duerson was a safety who played in the NFL for 11 years before retiring. He won a Super Bowl with the Chicago Bears in the 1980s and another with the New York Giants in the late 1990s. Duerson committed suicide in February 2011, and before his death he sent a message to his family saying, that he wanted it to be scanned and used to study CTE and concussion trauma. The four-time Pro Bowl pick was 50 years old when he took his own life.

10 10. Chris Henry

The 20 most notorious cases of CTE (11)

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry was selected in 2005 and had a difficult, controversial and short career. He was accused of assault and had to be arrested several times for illegal possession of substances and weapons. In 2009, Henry died in a car accident at the age of 26. Researchers later discovered that his brain was showing signs of CTE. At the time, he was among the youngest people to suffer from the disease.

9 9. Derek Boogaard, Wade Belak and Rick Rypien

The 20 most notorious cases of CTE (12)

In the spring and summer of 2011, Derek Boogard, Wade Belak, and Rick Rypien died. They were all tough guys in the NHL. Rypien and Belak committed suicide while Boogaard died of a drug overdose. All three had a history of concussion, and while Boogaard was the only one to have had full CTE, the other two were suspected of having the condition due to chronic depression and a history of concussion.

(Video) CTE in MMA - What It Is And Why We Need to Talk About It

Although all three cases have significant differences, their tight timeframes made them notorious in the hockey world and sparked a similar brain health debate in the NFL.

8 8. André Águas

The 20 most notorious cases of CTE (13)

Safety for the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals in the 1980s and 1990s was found dead at his home in 2006. That was about ten years after he retired from gaming. He committed suicide by shooting himself, and after his brain was examined by University of Pittsburgh researchers, it was determined that he was suffering from depression due to CTE.

7 7. Mike Webster

The 20 most notorious cases of CTE (14)

One of the greatest offensive linemen of all time, Mike Webster was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection, nine-time All-Pro selection, and played on four Super Bowl-winning teams for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1970. He suffered from severe CTE after his playing career, suffered from depression, dementia and excruciating pain. Webster died in 2002 and was the first NFL player to be diagnosed with CTE. Divorced from his wife and at times homeless, Webster's final years were a sad situation for a great athlete.

6 6. Owen Thomas

The 20 most notorious cases of CTE (15)

While Chris Henry looked young at just 26 when he discovered he had CTE, Penn State forward Owen Thomas was only 21 when he was found in his home. He had committed suicide due to an emotional breakdown that many around him considered uncharacteristic. Thomas's brain was examined by specialists and it was determined that he had CTE.

5 5. Ryan Freel

The 20 most notorious cases of CTE (16)

Ryan Freel is the first baseball player to be diagnosed with CTE. He played in MLB for nine years and retired after a series of injuries. While playing in midfield, he suffered a serious head injury while chasing a fly ball. Just a few months later, he was hit in the head with a ball and suffered a concussion.

Freel retired in 2009 but suffered severe brain trauma. He committed suicide from a gunshot wound in 2012. Examiners determined that he suffered from CTE as a result of his baseball injuries.

(Video) Ex-NFL player who killed 6 had 'severe' CTE, researchers say

4 4. Nathan Stiles

The 20 most notorious cases of CTE (17)

Stiles, the youngest deceased gamer to suffer from CTE, was in high school when he died. Stiles was a running back playing his senior year of high school when he suffered a severe blow to the head and later died of second impact syndrome. Basically, he suffered head trauma shortly after an initial concussion.

During his autopsy, doctors found that Stiles, who was only 17 at the time of his death, was already showing signs of CTE. This happened in 2012.

3 3. Junior bucket

The 20 most notorious cases of CTE (18)

One of the greatest linebackers of all time, Junior Seau recorded over 1,800 tackles and nearly 60 sacks over the course of his career. He played twenty seasons in the NFL, with the San Diego Chargers, the Miami Dolphins and finally the New England Patriots. Seau was a 12-time Pro Bowl selection. Seau committed suicide in 2012 by shooting himself in the chest. His family claimed that while he rarely missed time during his career due to injuries or concussions, there was no doubt among them that he had suffered head trauma the entire time. For those who remember his career, he was the definition of toughness and resilience on the pitch.

Doctors note that his brain showed significant signs of CTE. He suffered from mild depression and severe insomnia for years before his death. Junior Seau was just 43 years old.

2 2. Jovan Belcher

The 20 most notorious cases of CTE (19)

Over the weekend of December 1, 2012, NFL fans learned that Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot his girlfriend and then himself, leaving a young daughter behind. He was only 25 years old. More than a year after the incident, Belcher's family had his remains exhumed and requested that his brain be examined for signs of severe brain trauma. Although the results of these tests have not been released to the public, many have speculated that mental illness may have played a role. In late September 2014, several reports came out stating that Belcher did in fact suffer from CTE.

1 1. Chris Benoit

The 20 most notorious cases of CTE (20)

Chris Benoit was a Canadian professional wrestler who competed from the mid-1980s to 2007. In 2007 he murdered his wife and son and then committed suicide by hanging himself in his gym. Benoit's horrific actions have reignited some debates. The first related to his use of steroids and other PEDs, to which many have attributed his behavior. Others have claimed that Benoit had a drinking habit that likely led to his actions.

However, examining his brain has led to the discussion of brain trauma in professional athletes. To paraphrase the examining doctor, he had the brain of an 80-year-old man and suffered permanent damage to all parts of his brain. Benoit had one of the most severe cases of CTE provers had ever seen. Benoit was only 40 years old.


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