The late Chris Henry, a Bengals wide receiver who died in December at age 26, had a chronic brain injury that may have affected his mental state and behavior, researchers said Monday.
After examining brain tissue taken from Henry after his death, researchers at West Virginia University concluded that he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a condition that has been found in a number of former professional football players.
Henry died after he either jumped or fell from the back of a pickup truck being driven by his fiancée near their home in Charlotte, N.C. An autopsy revealed that he died of numerous head injuries, and a toxicology report showed no alcohol in his system.
Neurosurgeon Julian Bailes and California medical examiner Bennet Omalu, co-directors of the Brain Injury Research Institute at WVU, disclosed their findings alongside Henry's mother, Carolyn Henry Glaspy. Bailes and his team believe that CTE is caused by multiple head impacts, regardless of whether a person has been diagnosed with a concussion. Neither NFL nor WVU records show that Henry, a WVU alumnus, was ever diagnosed with a concussion.
CTE, which is common among boxers, carries specific neurobehavioral symptoms, Bailes said — typically, failure at personal and business relationships, use of drugs and alcohol, depression and suicide. Henry had several of these symptoms but not all of them, according to Bailes. His personal problems were well-known, resulting in several arrests and suspensions.
Omalu first encountered CTE while studying the brain of former Steelers C Mike Webster, a Hall of Famer who died in 2002 at age 50. Webster had suffered brain damage that prevented him from working after his NFL career. Omalu and Bailes have analyzed the brains of 27 modern athletes, Bailes said, and the majority showed evidence of CTE.
Several studies, including one commissioned by the NFL, have suggested that pro football players have a higher-than-normal rate of Alzheimer's disease and other memory problems.
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