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Vincent Jackson, former NFL star found dead in hotel room in February, had stage 2 CTE, family says

Phillip Adams suffered from extensive CTE
Autopsy reveals ex-NFL player accused of killing six people suffered from extensive brain disease 02:46

Former NFL wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who was found dead last February in a Florida hotel room, had the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, known as CTE, his family announced Thursday. Dr. Ann McKee, who directs the Boston University-based research center where his brain was examined, said in a statement the 38-year-old was diagnosed with stage 2 of the disease.

"Vincent Jackson was a brilliant, disciplined, gentle giant whose life began to change in his mid-30s," McKee said in the statement. "He became depressed, with progressive memory loss, problem solving difficulties, paranoia, and eventually extreme social isolation. That his brain showed stage 2 CTE should no longer surprise us; these results have become commonplace."

CTE, which can only be diagnosed through an autopsy, has been found in former members of the military, football players, boxers and others who have been subjected to repeated head trauma. One recent study found signs of the debilitating disease in 110 of 111 NFL players whose brains were inspected.

In February, sheriff's officials in Hillsborough County, Florida, said Jackson's family initially reported him missing and deputies tracked him down to a hotel two days later, spoke with him and canceled the missing persons case. Jackson was found dead days later. The New York Times reported Thursday a cause of death wasn't announced by the county medical examiner's office.

Wide receiver Vincent Jackson of the San Diego Chargers watches from the sidelines during a game against the Washington Redskins on January 3, 2010, at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.
Vincent Jackson in 2010 Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Researchers at a brain bank founded by Boston University, the Concussion Legacy Foundation and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs studied Jackson's brain to determine the diagnosis. Jackson's family released the findings to help raise awareness about CTE, according to the statement released by the foundation.

"There is still a lot to be understood about CTE, and education is the key to prevention," Jackson's widow Lindsey Jackson said in the statement. "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."

Vincent Jackson played for the San Diego Chargers for seven seasons before becoming a free agent because of a contract dispute. He then went on to play five seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, making his last appearance in 2016. He recorded 57 receiving touchdowns and was selected to the Pro Bowl three times.

The son of military parents, Jackson founded the Jackson In Action 83 Foundation, a nonprofit to support military families.

Jackson's diagnosis comes days after an autopsy revealed a similar one for former NFL player Phillip Adams, who authorities say fatally shot six people in South Carolina before killing himself in April.

Discussing Adams' diagnosis, McKee said that of 24 NFL players diagnosed with the disease after dying in their 20s and 30s, most had stage 2 CTE, like Adams. The disease has four stages, with stage 4 being the most severe and usually associated with dementia.

The second stage is associated with progressive cognitive and behavioral abnormalities such as aggression, impulsivity, explosivity, depression, paranoia, anxiety, poor executive function and memory loss, McKee said.

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