Former New York Giants safely Tyler Sash, who died in early September, suffered from the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
Sash’s family, which donated his brain to Boston University and the Concussion Legacy Foundation to be tested for CTE, were notified of the findings last week, per a report from the New York Times. Chris Nowinski of the Boston University-affiliated Concussion Legacy Foundation confirmed the diagnosis on Tuesday night.
Dr. Ann McKee, chief of neuropathology at the V.A. Boston Healthcare System, conducted the examination on Sash and discovered that the disease had progressed far beyond levels typically seen in someone Sash’s age.
McKee, a professor of neurology and pathology at the BU School of Medicine, said the damage was similar to that of Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau, who committed suicide at age 43 in 2012. She added that she had seen only one other case where the severity of the disease was at a level similar to Sash’s at his age.
Sash, who won a Super Bowl as a rookie with the Giants in 2012 following a standout career at the University of Iowa, died at his home in Oskaloosa, Iowa, on Sept. 8.
The Iowa State Medical Examiner’s office ruled in October that Sash died from an accidental overdose after mixing two powerful pain medications.
CTE, which can be diagnosed only after death, has been found in the brains of dozens of former football players. Linked to repeated brain trauma, it is associated with symptoms such as memory loss, impaired judgment, depression, and, eventually, progressive dementia.
Months after the Super Bowl victory, Sash was suspended for four games in 2012 for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing substances policy by testing positive for Adderall, a stimulant used primarily to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and the sleep disorder narcolepsy. The Giants cut ties with Sash prior to the 2013 opener, reaching an injury settlement after he sustained a concussion in the preseason finale against New England.
At Iowa, Sash started 37 games from 2007-10, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors in his final season. He bypassed his fourth year of eligibility to enter the NFL draft.