'Gentle giant' NFL player Jackson had CTE brain disease: family

Miami (AFP) – Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson was suffering from the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) when he died earlier this year at the age of 38, his family said Thursday.


Lindsey Jackson, Jackson's widow, said in a statement she was releasing the findings of analysis of her late husband's brain in order to raise awareness of CTE.

"Vincent dedicated so much of his life to helping others. Even in his passing, I know he would want to continue that same legacy," Jackson said.

"There is still a lot to be understood about CTE, and education is the key to prevention.

"The conversation around this topic needs to be more prevalent, and our family hopes that others will feel comfortable and supported when talking about CTE moving forward."

Jackson, a three-time Pro-Bowler during a 12-season NFL career, was found dead in a hotel room in Florida in February.

He had been suffering from chronic alcoholism and other health-related issues at the time of his death.

In an interview with the New York Times on Thursday, widow Lindsey Jackson said her husband had shown signs of CTE since 2016, the final year of his NFL career.

CTE, which cannot be tested for in living individuals, is a degenerative brain disease caused by repetitive head trauma.

It has been linked to an array of behavioral symptoms including aggression, impulsivity, explosivity, depression, anxiety, paranoia, and suicidal tendencies, as well as progressive cognitive symptoms such as memory loss.

Ann McKee, the director of Boston University CTE Center which led the examination, said Jackson's case highlighted the need to make gridiron safer at all levels of the sport.

"Vincent Jackson was a brilliant, disciplined, gentle giant whose life began to change in his mid-30s," McKee said.

"He became depressed, with progressive memory loss, problem solving difficulties, paranoia, and eventually extreme social isolation," adding that CTE diagnosis in NFL players had become "commonplace."

"What is surprising is that so many football players have died with CTE and so little is being done to make football, at all levels, safer by limiting the number of repetitive subconcussive hits," McKee said.

Thursday's announcement comes after it was revealed on Tuesday that another NFL player, Phillip Adams, was suffering from unusually severe CTE when he shot six people to death in April before killing himself.

Jackson began his career with the the then San Diego Chargers in 2005 after being chosen in the 2nd round of the draft. He earned Pro-Bowl selections in 2009, 2011 and 2012.

He joined Tampa Bay in 2012, but played his last game for the club in 2016 after suffering a knee injury.