Tyler Sash, the former New York Giants safety who died last September of an accidental drug overdose at the age of 27, was diagnosed with C.T.E., according to a report Tuesday in the New York Times.
This explains some of the erratic post-playing career behavior exhibited by Sash after the Giants cut him prior to the 2013 season. From the Times:
Sash had bouts of confusion, memory loss and minor fits of temper. Although an Iowa sports celebrity, both as a Super Bowl-winning member of the Giants and a popular star athlete at the University of Iowa, Sash was unable to seek meaningful employment because he had difficulty focusing long enough to finish a job.
Barnetta Sash, Tyler's mother, blamed much of her son's changeable behavior, which she had not observed in the past, on the powerful prescription drugs he was taking for a football-related shoulder injury that needed surgery. Nonetheless, after his death she donated his brain to be tested for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated trauma that has been found in dozens of former N.F.L. players.
There is little of substance I can add here, and to say it is sad -- which it is -- sounds trite. What I can say is this. Read about the five diagnosed concussions Sash had dating back to high school and serious shoulder issues he hid to try to keep playing, issues that caused him serious pain, lost sleep and p contributed to his overdose on pain medications. Then think about how critical we all can be -- fans and media alike -- of players when they don't perform perfectly.
Sash joins a list of players that includes Junior Seau, Mike Webster, and many others. Antwaan Randle-El, formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers, recently talked about his worries about signs that his cognitive abilities are slipping. Football, even with the increased emphasis on safety, is a brutal game. While you criticize players and sometimes celebrate when they lose their jobs, remember the risks of the profession these men have chosen and the life-altering -- and sometimes life-ending -- dangers of the way they make a living.
Let's hope that someday the NFL can find head and shoulder equipment that gives players better protection from the brain-altering hits they too often suffer. Until then, let's just hope that this diagnosis brings some peace to Sash's loved ones.