The brain of NFL Hall of Fame defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy was donated to the Boston University School of Medicine Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center at the behest of his family, according to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times.
According to his autopsy, Kennedy died of natural causes on May 23. He suffered "congestive heart failure due to hypertensive heart disease, with organizing pneumonia and diabetes mellitus as contributing factors."
Boston University's CTE center is at the forefront of the research being done into the degenerative brain disease, with the program's director, neuropathologist Dr. Ann McKee, releasing a study in July 2017 finding that the brains of 110 NFL players out of 111 examined upon their death had CTE.
The disease currently cannot be identified in living subjects, leading many athletes—especially those in contact sports—to agree to donate their brains to CTE research upon their death.
The autopsy report also stated that the request to send the brain to the Boston CTE center "was not made by the medical examiner for a determination of cause of death but that if any evidence of CTE is found that the cause of death can be amended."
On May 10, Kennedy was admitted to Orlando Regional Medical Center after suffering dyspnea, swelling in his legs and a persistent cough and that, at the time of his death, he had fluid in his lungs and "a markedly enlarged heart," according to Condotta.
Kennedy spent his entire career with the Seattle Seahawks (1990-00), accumulating 58 sacks. He was an eight-time Pro Bowler, three-time first-team All-Pro and the Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year in 1992.
"Cortez will be remembered not only for all his great achievements on the football field but how he handled himself off the field," Pro Football Hall of Fame president David Baker said, per SeattlePI.com. "He epitomized the many great values this game teaches which serves as inspiration to millions of fans."