Former NFL wide receiver Dez Bryant says "a lot" of current and former NFL players are "living with CTE" following the news that late Denver Broncos wideout Demaryius Thomas was posthumously diagnosed with Stage 2 CTE.
"DT88 my heart weak bro… it’s a lot of us living with CTE and the NFL know it…most importantly the Athletes who have those symptoms are scared to speak… 1 thing about me ain't living no false life…my love and support for athletes are on a much deeper level than most…" Bryant wrote on Instagram.
CTE can only be diagnosed after someone has died. The neurodegenerative disease has been linked to combat sport athletes and NFL players who have suffered repeated blows to the head. A 2017 study posted in the Journal of the American Medical Association found CTE in 99 percent of the brains of former NFL players.
“The data suggest that there is very likely a relationship between exposure to football and risk of developing the disease,” Jesse Mez, the lead author of the study, said at the time.
The study acknowledges families of players who showed signs of CTE are more likely to donate to the study, thus potentially increasing the percentage, but the link between contact sports and brain conditions has been well established.
CTE is a degenerative neurological condition that can lead to mood swings, memory loss and some symptoms typically associated with Parkinson's disease.
"We found what we've seen in so many other players under the age of 34," Dr. Ann McKee, the director of Neuropathology Core at Boston University, told Good Morning America of Thomas. "On the basis of multiple lesions in the frontal lobes and temporal lobe are beginning degeneration of deeper areas of the brain. He was diagnosed with CTE. Stage two."
Thomas died in December 2021 of a seizure disorder that led to him going into cardiac arrest. His parents revealed to GMA that Thomas was dealing with issues like memory loss and paranoia, but McKee noted his cause of death was separate from his posthumous CTE diagnosis.
"CTE itself does not cause death. You don't die from CTE. What CTE does is it changes your behavior and your personality," McKee said.
The Fulton County (Georgia) Coroner's Office has yet to determine Thomas' cause of death, however, the Boston University doctors believe he died following a seizure.