Autopsy shows CTE in former college quarterback


Cullen Finnerty, the former college quarterback who died in May at the age of 30, has been found to have the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

The New York Times reports that Finnerty’s brain was studied at the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University, and he was found to have CTE. That’s the same brain disease that has been diagnosed through autopsies of several former NFL players, most notably Dave Duerson and Junior Seau, both of whom committed suicide with gunshots to the chest.

The diagnosis of CTE in a player who never played at the professional level raises a question: Did all of the former NFL players whose brains have shown signs of CTE actually have the disease before they ever got to the NFL because of hits to the head suffered in college, high school or youth football?

Much more research needs to be done before we know exactly what causes CTE, how it affects those who have it and how it can be prevented. Some doctors say there’s no proof at all that repeated impacts cause CTE. The disease can only be definitively diagnosed via autopsy.

Finnerty led Grand Valley State to three NCAA Division II national championships. He was briefly on the rosters of the Ravens and Broncos but never played in an NFL game. Finnerty was found dead in the Michigan woods after he went missing in May. The autopsy listed pneumonia as the cause of death, and said the pneumonia was exacerbated by use of oxycodone and by CTE.

25 responses to “Autopsy shows CTE in former college quarterback

  1. Or maybe he was born with CTE, or maybe he got CTE from a bike accident, or tripping down the stairs, or bumping his head on a shelf.

  2. One famous doctor said that the TDap vaccine causes autism. ‘Some doctors say’ is now the medical news equivalent of Fox News’ ‘some people say.’ Hilarious that all these people with repeated concussions while living and CTE on autopsy mean nothing as long as you can find some dbag to say it’s inconclusive and that much more study is needed.

  3. I find it interesting that other sports like baseball don’t get all the press about brain injury as football and yet they are no less dangerous. I would hate to get hit in the head with a hardball traveling over 100 mph and in baseball only the batter wears a helmet. Just this month an 8-year-old was killed when struck in the head by a baseball in little league. There is danger in all sports and athletes and their parents know that when they sign up to play. It is always sad to lose a young life but they could just as likely get killed in a car accident. The only way to guarantee safety is to live in a bubble and even then there would be the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning! The bleeding hearts need to spread their concerns around and quit picking on football!

  4. Something I’ve been saying all along – most NFL players started playing tackle football in high school at the latest, some even before that. So how can anyone know that it’s only the NFL that caused the problems? Or for that matter, that it’s even football that caused the problems?

  5. They should look at other sports too. Is CTE only found in former football players? It would be interesting to look at a variety of athlete’s brains postmortem to see the differences. Then again a few million in research will probably just lead to an article that says football players are more prone to concussions than golfers.

  6. College football may not be populated with the world-class athlete as is professional football, however, serious collisions to heads surely take place. This sad story makes sense to me.

  7. How about studying boxers and MMA fighters brains? They take a lot more direct impacts and I haven’t heard any complaints as long as they take care of themselves. Many, most, have longer careers than football players. Not saying we shouldn’t continue to find safer gear on heads, but the odds of an NFL vs a boxer would really help with diagnosis of what’s really happening. I think there is something to be said of NFL players retiring and then going into a depression because they don’t know how to handle “normal” life. When the crowd stops screaming, when you lose your brothers (like wen a soldier retires), they might be ill prepared for life on their own. Just my humble opinion

  8. Since we don’t know what causes CTE, why did you make the assumption that it occurred from hits suffered before they got to the NFL. If we don’t know what causes it, is it possible they got it from eating broccoli, or ballroom dancing?

  9. back to the leather helmets without excessive face masks. The hits will be softer but the tackling will still be good.
    The helmet is nothing more than false sense of security when in fact it is a weapon of massive destruction.

  10. Right. ‘We don’t know what causes CTE.’ And smoking has no association with lung, bladder or pancreatic cancer. It’s all a huge mystery.

  11. pillowporkers says:
    Aug 8, 2013 2:58 PM
    Or maybe he was born with CTE, or maybe he got CTE from a bike accident, or tripping down the stairs, or bumping his head on a shelf.

    Do you know what the word “Chronic” even means…?

    So unless he fell off his bike, hundreds of times, on his head… It did NOT cause CTE…

  12. CTE is undoubtedly linked to head injury, but what good does it do fans to ponder it? When I do, I start feeling guilty for loving to watch the guys play. Like I am also partly to blame for encouraging the violence. Maybe we all are. But if guys are going to decide to go ahead and play knowing full well the risks, and the NFL isn’t going anywhere, then maybe stop talking about brain injury so much. It just upsets everyone. Just do the best to protect them through rules and state of the art equipment and leave the dark side to the players and coaches who took the money knowing what they know.

  13. The beginning of the end of football as we know it.

    Football will be akin to boxing in 20 yrs.

    Seriously, would you let your son play a sport that is becoming more dangerous ever year?

    Once the first lawsuits are filed vs pop warner and pee wee football, that will bring an end to those organizations. Many school districts will follow suit given the enormous liability costs.

    Enjoy it now while you can.

  14. How is pneumonia made worse by CTE? Curious how they try to link the two, yet just gloss right over the oxycodone.

  15. The place that found CTE would likely be able to “find” it in an average Joe who never played football at any level. Finding it in this guy simply makes it harder for the broke former players and the ambulance chasers to make money off the NFL’s success.

  16. CTE does occur in athletes from other sports, like hockey, but that doesn’t make the occurrence of it in football any less significant.

    I hope the NFL invests serious money into research of this matter so that the game we love can continue and so that the gifted people who play it can do so without permanent, debilitating injury to their brains.

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