Former NFL wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who died in December at age 33, has been posthumously diagnosed with Stage 2 chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease.
Ken Belson of the New York Times reported Tuesday that Boston University doctors believe CTE, which can only be diagnosed with a brain evaluation after death, and seizures resulting from a 2019 car crash both impacted Thomas late in his life.
"He had two different conditions in parallel," Dr. Ann McKee told Belson, adding seizures aren't typically associated with CTE.
The Fulton County coroner's office in Georgia has not yet ruled on Thomas' cause of death.
In December, the Roswell Police Department told TMZ Sports there were no signs of foul play when Thomas was found dead in his Georgia home. Police suspected his death was caused by a "medical issue."
People close to Thomas told the New York Times he'd become "increasingly erratic in the last year of his life" and showed many symptoms of CTE, including memory loss, paranoia and isolation.
His parents told the Times he stopped returning their calls, and others became concerned he was being taken advantage of by former friends. Several individuals were reportedly arrested following his death after cash, guns and football memorabilia were stolen from his home.
Bennie Fowler, Thomas' former Denver Broncos teammate, told Belson that players must weigh the risks of CTE against the potentially life-changing financial benefits football can provide.
"It comes with the game," Fowler said.
In 2017, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in coordination with Boston University's CTE Center, which McKee oversees, found 110 of 111 former NFL players (99.1 percent) studied showed signs of the disease, per CNN's Daniella Emanuel.
A total of 177 out of 202 people (87.6 percent) who played football at the high school, college or pro levels were neuropathologically diagnosed with CTE.
"There's no question that there's a problem in football. That people who play football are at risk for this disease," McKee said at the time. "And we urgently need to find answers for not just football players, but veterans and other individuals exposed to head trauma."
Robert Stern, the director of clinical research at the Boston University's CTE Center, told Dave Zirin of The Nation in March that doctors were making progress toward the potential critical discovery of being able to identify CTE before death.
"Although I wish I could say it's a game-changer right now, it's a game-changer for the future," Stern said. "We're really not at the point of being able to diagnose CTE during life yet. We're getting much closer, and this new paper is an important step forward."
Meanwhile, senior U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody ruled in March the NFL's $1 billion settlement related to concussions and dementia showed signs of "race-norming" and stated the league's former Black players could be retested and reapply for benefits.
The league had paid out $800 million as part of the settlement at the time the ruling was made.
Thomas played college football at Georgia Tech before getting selected by the Broncos in the first round of the 2010 draft. He earned four Pro Bowl selections in Denver before finishing his career with stints with the Houston Texans, New England Patriots and New York Jets.
He last played during the 2019 season and formally retired in June 2021.