“His 20-year career put him at high risk for development of CTE,” said Dr. Ann McKee.
Former NFL player Phillip Adams reportedly expressed concerns about his memory issues and difficulty sleeping before killing six people and himself in a mass shooting in Rock Hill, South Carolina in April. A researcher from Boston University revealed Tuesday that at the time of this death, Adams had severe brain damage caused by CTE.
“His 20-year career put him at high risk for development of CTE,” said Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist and expert on neurodegenerative diseases at Boston University said, WCNC reports. McKee, who conducted the study on Adams’ brain added, “It’s a progressive disease that worsens with age. In many instances, it is a disease of the young.”
According to an Associated Press report, an anonymous source said at the time of the mass shooting that Adams was being treated by a prominent South Carolina doctor, who was one of the shooting victims.
York County coroner confirmed that Dr. Robert Lesslie, 70, and his wife, Barbara Lesslie, 69, were pronounced dead at the scene, along with grandchildren Adah Lesslie, 9, and Noah Lesslie, 5. Two HVAC workers at the Lesslie’s home that day were also fatally shot, James Lewis and Robert Shook, both 38.
After hours of negotiations, Adams, 32, took his own life as officers were closing in on him, theGrio reported.
Phillip Adams of the San Francisco 49ers poses for his headshot in 2011. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images)
He was a cornerback who played for seven different NFL teams once suffering two concussions over three games, per AP. His last signing was with the Atlanta Falcons in 2015.
“Mr. Adams’ CTE pathology was different than the other young NFL players with CTE,” McKee said. “It was different in that it was unusually severe in both frontal lobes.”
McKee noted that Adams’ 20-year football career contributed to his neurological deterioration.
“We have seen this behavior. We have even seen homicidal behavior in individuals diagnosed with CTE. It is difficult to say that it alone resulted in these behaviors because usually, it’s a complicated issue with many other factors,” McKee said. “It is in fact, not what I would consider unusual in this disease.”
A representative for Adams’ family said he was “desperately seeking help” from the NFL but was denied due to the severe impact of the memory loss, which caused him to miss appointments, according to the report. Also, because he had not retired by 2014 which is the cutoff set in a settlement between former players and the NFL.
The family, who said after the murders that Adams struggled after he left the league, issued the following statement following McKee’s report:
“As we process these results, we are deeply saddened by the events that occurred on April 7 and we continue to pray for the families of the victims. We are pleased to have a better understanding of the mental turmoil that Phillip was dealing with during the last moments of his life.
We cannot say that we are surprised by these results, however, it is shocking to hear how severe his condition was. After going through medical records from his football career, we do know that he was desperately seeking help from the NFL but was denied all claims due to his inability to remember things and to handle seemingly simple tasks such as traveling hours away to see doctors and going through extensive evaluations.
In this July 30, 2014 file photo, Seattle Seahawks’ Phillip Adams runs during an NFL football camp practice in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
We now know that these deficits were most likely caused by the disease. By participating in the research process, we hope to bring awareness to this condition so that players young and old can understand the risks. We will continue to advocate for any research that can prevent any other families from having to endure this type of tragedy.
We want people to understand that this could happen to anyone. Phillip is not the first to battle this disease and he will not be the last. Thank you so much to Boston University the Concussion Legacy Foundation, the VA, and all of the folks that have helped its and many other families to get these much-needed answers.”
The NFL also released a statement in response to the report:
“We appreciate the work done by Dr. McKee and her colleagues for the value it adds in the ongoing quest for a better understanding of CTE. Case studies such as those compiled in this updated paper are important to further advancing the science and progress related to head trauma.
The medical and scientific communities will benefit from this publication and the NFL will continue to work with a wide range of experts to improve the health of current and former NFL athletes. As noted by the authors, there are still many unanswered questions relating to the cause, incidence and prevalence of long-term effects of head trauma such as CTE. The NFL is committed to supporting scientific research into CTE and advancing progress in the prevention and treatment of head injuries.”
The NFL’s statement noted that the league pledged $100 million in 2016 to support “independent medical research and engineering advancements in neuroscience-related topics.”
“This is in addition to the $100M that the NFL and its partners are already spending on medical and neuroscience research,” the statement concludes.
This article contains additional reporting from Biba Adams and The Associated Press.
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