Tyler Sash, the former Giants safety who died in September at the age of 27 from an accidental overdose of pain medications, was found to have suffered from the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, his family told The New York Times.
The Times reported that Sash’s condition had “advanced to a stage rarely seen in someone his age” and was similar to the results found in the brain of Junior Seau, who committed suicide in 2012 at age 43.
“My son knew something was wrong, but he couldn’t express it,” Sash’s mother, Barnetta, told the Times. Sash exhibited erratic behavior before his death, including an incident in Iowa in which he led police on a four-block chase on a motorized scooter before fleeing into the woods. “Now it makes sense,” his mother added. “The part of the brain that controls impulses, decision-making and reasoning was damaged badly.”
Sash was a 2011 sixth-round draft pick of the Giants out of Iowa, where he grew up, and a member of the team that won Super Bowl XLVI. He was released in 2013.
After Sash’s death his family donated his brain to Boston University and the Concussion Legacy Foundation to see if CTE would be detected. CTE only can be found posthumously.
“Even though he was only 27, he played 16 years of football, and we’re finding over and over that it’s the duration of exposure to football that gives you a high risk for CTE,” Dr. Ann McKee, chief of neuropathology at the V.A. Boston Healthcare System and a professor of neurology and pathology at the Boston University School of Medicine, told the Times. McKee also conducted the examination on Sash’s brain.
Josh Sash, Tyler’s older brother, told the Times that Sash sustained at least two concussions in high school, one documented concussion in college and two with the Giants.
“I want other parents to realize they need to have a conversation with their kids and not just think it’s a harmless game,” Barnetta Sash said, “because it’s not.”