The autopsy results from a former NFL player found dead over the weekend were set to be released Wednesday. However, a Florida sheriff said that Vincent Jackson‘s family thinks the 38-year-old was suffering from a brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) that statistics suggest is widespread among former football players.
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister spoke Wednesday with local news outlet Q105 and revealed what he called “speculation” about the suspected CTE after he said with more certainty that Jackson was also an alcoholic.
“Unfortunately he suffered from chronic alcoholism,” Chronister said about the “tragic” death.
“We haven’t got the toxicology report back so can’t say with any certainty that was it but a lot of longstanding health conditions that contributed to his passing because of some alcohol abuse,” Chronister added.
Jackson was found dead over the weekend inside of a hotel room where he had been staying away from his family for more than a month. Chronister suggested CTE played a role in that.
“This is true speculation but the family is telling me that he suffered from CTE, they believe he had a lot of concussion problems,” Chronister said. “When you suffer from that you’re not yourself, you’re not your normal self.”
Chronister added that Jackson’s family members “believe wholeheartedly all of his actions are a result of what he suffered as a result of playing in the NFL.”
Without the autopsy results, it remains unclear what Jackson’s cause of death was.
In a telling report from 2017, a research team from Boston University and the VA Boston Healthcare System conducted the largest study into the link between football-related brain trauma and the degenerative brain disease CTE. The team diagnosed CTE in 110 out of 111 former NFL players whose brains were donated for research.
The diagnoses were common among football players at multiple levels, from high school to professional leagues. Overall, the researchers discovered CTE in 87% of the 202 brains they examined.
Suicide was the most common cause of death for players at the mild stages of CTE. Nearly half of those who died at advanced stages of CTE developed neurodegenerative-related causes of death, similar to symptoms related to dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
The researchers also said many who developed the disease exhibited behavioral issues, which became more severe at advanced stages.
This is a developing story that will be updated as additional information becomes available.