Scott Vermillion Becomes 1st American Soccer Player to Be Diagnosed with CTE

Adam WellsJune 28, 2022

6 May 2000:  Scott Vermillion #4 of the Colorado Rapids waits to start the game against the D.C. United at the Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado. The United defeated the Rapids 5-2..Mandatory Credit: Brian Bahr  /Allsport
Brian Bahr

Scott Vermillion is the first American soccer player to be diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Per Andrew Keh of the New York Times, Boston University doctors made the discovery after examining Vermillion's brain last year.

Vermillion, 44, died on Christmas Day in 2020. His family said, according to Keh, that his official cause of death was acute alcohol and prescription drug poisoning after he "spent the last decade of his life withdrawing from his family as he struggled with substance abuse and progressively erratic behavior."

CTE is a degenerative brain condition believed to be caused by repeated head trauma. It has most often been linked to high-collision sports, like football, boxing, mixed martial arts and hockey.

A 2017 study published by Acta Neuropathologica (via Reuters' Ben Hirschler) found that soccer players who frequently use their heads to pass and shoot the ball could be at high risk of suffering long-term brain damage.

The study focused on six deceased male soccer players who had been diagnosed with dementia following an extended playing career. Four of the six brains in the study showed evidence of CTE.

Dr. Ann McKee, the director of the CTE Center at Boston University, told Keh that soccer is "clearly a risk" for CTE.

A study published in 2019 by researchers at the University of Glasgow found that professional soccer players were around 3.5 times more likely than the general population to die from a neurodegenerative disease.

University of Glasgow @UofGlasgow

Former pro footballers had an approx 3.5 times higher rate of death due to neurodegenerative disease, but were less likely to die of diseases such as heart disease and some cancers, says new <a href="https://twitter.com/UofGMVLS?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@UofGMVLS</a> study led by <a href="https://twitter.com/WillStewNeuro?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@WillSTEWNeuro</a> in <a href="https://twitter.com/NEJM?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NEJM</a> <br>👉 <a href="https://t.co/3RlEtHoZx6">https://t.co/3RlEtHoZx6</a> <a href="https://t.co/imTDKhNyNo">pic.twitter.com/imTDKhNyNo</a>

Taylor Twellman, who played for the U.S. men's national team from 2002 to 2008, told MedLinePlus.gov he suffered "six or seven diagnosed concussions. All of the concussions except one knocked me unconscious."

Twellman noted the final concussion he suffered, in 2008, ended his career.

Former U.S. women's national team star Brandi Chastain announced in 2016 she was donating her brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation after her death.

"I'm part of asking, why are we more susceptible to this?" said Chastain. "If I could help get to the bottom of this, that's great."

Vermillion played on the United States U-17 team in 1992 and 1993 and the under-20 team in 1996. He also played four seasons in MLS from 1998 to 2001 with the Kansas City Wizards, Colorado Rapids and D.C. United.