The late Pat Grange is the first named case of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy to be diagnosed in a soccer player, the New York Times and CNN are reporting.
Researchers at Boston University and VA Boston Healthcare said CTE, which is linked to repeated blows to the head, was found posthumously in Grange’s brain, the reports say.
Grange, who played for Albuquerque High and the University of New Mexico men, died in April 2012 at age 29 of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
His brain was donated to the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University School of Medicine, which studies brain damage among deceased pro football players and other athletes.
Through its studies, researchers have linked repetitive head trauma, such as that experienced in collision sports, with ALS and other debilitating motor neuron diseases.
The New York Times report quotes Dr. Ann McKee, who performed the brain exam on Grange, as saying he had “very extensive frontal lobe damage,” particularly for someone so young.
McKee said that is the area of the head commonly used by soccer players for headers – and Grange frequently headed the ball – but McKee warned against broad conclusions that “the ball caused his condition,” the Times reported.
Grange’s mother Michele told the Journal last May that “we believe this is due to all the concussions and all the headers he did in soccer. He did headers his whole life.”
CTE so far can only be diagnosed after death. Symptoms include depression, aggression, disorientation, memory loss and progressive dementia.