Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in a National Football League Player: Case report and emerging medicolegal practice questions

J Forensic Nurs. 2010 Spring;6(1):40-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1939-3938.2009.01064.x.


We present a case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in a retired National Football League (NFL) Player with autopsy findings, apolipoprotein E genotype, and brain tissue evidence of chronic brain damage. This 44-year-old retired NFL player manifested a premortem history of cognitive and neuropsychiatric impairment, which included in part, chronic depression, suicide attempts, insomnia, paranoia, and impaired memory before he finally committed suicide. A full autopsy was performed with Polymerase Chain Reaction-based analyses of his blood to determine the apolipoprotein genotype. Histochemical and immunohistochemical analyses were performed on topographical gross sections of the brain. Autopsy confirmed a fatal gunshot wound of the head. The apolipoprotein E genotype was E3/E3 and the brain tissue revealed diffuse cerebral taupathy (Neurofibrillary Tangles and Neuritic Threads). This will be the third case of CTE in a national football player, which has been reported in the medical literature. Omalu et al., reported the first two cases in 2005 and 2006. This case series manifested similar premortem history of neuropsychiatric impairment with autopsy evidence of cerebral taupathy without any neuritic amyloidopathy. For a definitive diagnosis of CTE to be made, and for medicolegal purposes, a full autopsy must be performed with histochemical and immunohistochemical analyses of the brain to identify the presence of Neurofibrillary Tangles (NFTs) and Neuritic Threads (NTs).

Implications: Further longitudinal prospective studies are required to confirm the common denominators and epidemiology of CTE in professional American football players, which have been identified by this case series.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Autopsy
  • Brain Injury, Chronic / etiology*
  • Brain Injury, Chronic / pathology*
  • Brain Injury, Chronic / prevention & control
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Football / injuries*
  • Forensic Nursing
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Suicide
  • United States