State Watch

Autopsy finds severe brain trauma in ex-NFL player who shot 6 people


A former NFL player who is alleged to have killed six people in South Carolina last spring suffered from a chronic degenerative brain disease, an autopsy report revealed.

Ann McKee, a neuropathologist in Boston, Mass., who conducted the autopsy, said Phillip Adams had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a brain disorder caused by head injuries, she told WCNC-TV, an NBC affiliate in Charlotte, N.C. McKee said Adams had a particularly severe case of stage 2 CTE, calling it “unusually severe in both frontal lobes.”

“Severe frontal lobe pathology might have contributed to Adams’ behavioral abnormalities,” Mckee said.

McKee, the director of Boston University’s CTE Center, performed the autopsy with the permission of the ex-NFL player’s family. The family said Adams had symptoms consistent with CTE, such as memory loss and head pain, before he allegedly shot six people in Rock Hall and killed himself on April 7, according to WCNC-TV.

“We cannot say that we are surprised by these results, however, it is shocking to hear how severe his condition was,” the family said in a statement, per WCNC-TV.

“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,” the statement continued.

CTE is a rare degenerative brain disorder that has been linked to repeated concussions and head injuries suffered by boxers, football players and other athletes who play heavy contact sports. In a 2017 study of 202 deceased football players, 99 percent of them were found to have had CTE.

Adams, who died at 32, played football in high school and college before playing 78 games throughout six seasons in the NFL. He played for several teams, including the San Francisco 49ers and the Atlanta Falcons, which was the last team he played with before he retired in 2015.

“His 20-year career put him at high risk for development of CTE,” McKee told WCNC-TV. “CTE is a progressive disease that worsens with age. Although in many instances, as with this one, it is a disease of the young.”

McKee compared Adams to Aaron Hernandez, a former NFL player who was convicted for murdering his friend in 2015. Hernandez killed himself in 2017, and an autopsy confirmed he also had CTE.

Boston University’s CTE Center has diagnosed 700 former football players with CTE, McKee said, 24 of whom died before the age of 40.

Tags Aaron Hernandez Ann McKee Boston University CTE mass shooting murder NFL Phillip Adams South Carolina

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