TIME Football

Autopsy Shows Former NFL Player Kevin Turner Had Advanced CTE

Kevin Turner,Dorsey Levens
Matt Rourkeā€”AP Former NFL player Kevin Turner spoke during a news conference in Philadelphia on April 9, 2013.

Researchers believe his brain disease grew severe due to decades of head trauma

Former NFL player Kevin Turner had the most advanced stage of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) when he died, Boston University brain researchers announced Thursday.

Dr. Ann McKee said at a Thursday news conference that an autopsy showed Turner had died of the brain trauma-related condition, rather than amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Turner had been diagnosed with ALS, a motor neuron disease that presents itself similarly to CTE.

“This is not ALS; this is CTE,’’ McKee said. “The severity of Mr. Turner’s CTE was extraordinary and unprecedented for an athlete who died in his 40s.”

Turner died in March at age 46. He had spoken of his certainty that his declining physical state leading to his death was due to his football career. Doctors said they believed he had such advanced CTE because he endured decades of head traumas while playing football.

“We believed the extreme severity of Kevin Turner’s disease is related to his 25-season career and the fact that he began playing tackle football at age 5, while his brain was still rapidly developing and more vulnerable,” said B.U. professor Robert Cantu.

NFL officials had denied any links between CTE and football, but league executive Jeff Miller admitted to the link in March. McKee’s research originally established a link between CTE and ALS in 2010.

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