Earlier this month, former Iowa Hawkeye and New York Giants, safety, Tyler Sash, was found dead in his home in Iowa. He was 27. Although there are many speculating that he committed suicide or overdosed, results from a recent autopsy are unknown at this time.
During preliminary testing, the Iowa Medical Examiners office revealed no acute trauma or evidence that Sash had been killed by external force. The cause and manner of death still remain under investigation, and additional laboratory testing was necessary, the office said.
I’m not writing this blog to stir up ongoing debates in reference to concussions and CTE, but I refuse to let the Tyler Sash’s of the football world become back page news due to a lack of notoriety during their playing days.
Sash was a sixth-round pick of the Giants in the 2011 NFL Draft and played in all 16 games that season as the Giants made an improbable run defeating the New England Patriots 21-17 in Super Bowl XLVI. (46)
According to the NY Daily News, Sash was suspended the first four games of the 2012 season after testing positive for Adderall, which is on the NFL's list of banned substances. Sash claimed he had a prescription for it and wasn’t aware it was banned under NFL policy.
The Giants severed ties with Sash before the 2013 opener, reaching an injury settlement with him after he sustained a concussion in the final preseason game against New England. Sash was arrested in May 2014 in Oskaloosa, Iowa after he led officers on a four-block chase with a motorized scooter before running into a wooded area. He pleaded guilty to public intoxication.
Sash suffered previous concussions at Iowa and during the Giants 20-17 NFC championship game victory over the San Francisco 49ers prior to SB XLVI. According to an ESPN piece written by NFL senior writer, John Clayton, Super Bowl Q&A: Brady's revenge, prior to the Giants SB match-up against the New England Patriots, he classified Sash’s concussion as a minor injury. What's minor about concussions? I guess that has been the attitude displayed by many over the years as it pertains to football and other sports-related concussions.
According to FrontLine, on September 18, 2015, researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University have now identified the degenerative disease known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, in 96 percent of NFL players that they’ve examined and in 79 percent of all football players. Also, the lab has found CTE in the brain tissue in 131 out of 165 individuals who, before their deaths, played football either professionally, semi-professionally, in college or in high school.
CTE is a degenerative condition many scientists believe is caused by head trauma. It’s caused by a buildup of tau, an abnormal protein that strangles brain cells. Brain cells generally cannot repair themselves and only in an autopsy can CTE be diagnosed. Repeated concussions may increase a person’s risk later in life to CTE and mental health issues such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and depression.
Concussion risk originates at the youth level and generally speaking, regardless of protective equipment and brands, incidents of concussions remain the same. The good news though is the Universities of Virginia Tech and Wake Forest both have helmet rating systems in place for adult football, hockey, baseball, softball and lacrosse helmets that could eliminate the risk of using unsafe protective headgear.
I’m not trying to insinuate that Sash’s past concussions had anything to do with his death, but it just makes one wonder, if his football-related brain injuries affected his behavior prior to his death earlier this month. Keep in mind that CTE can only be diagnosed after death and it’s impossible to get a definitive diagnosis from a brain scan of a living person so there still remains that possibility.
Prior to his death, it’s highly probable that Sash suffered from the physical and mental effects from concussions, if so, this will be just another public relations nightmare for the National Football League and others that once considered concussions to be minor injuries.