Finding answers. Researchers have found that the late NFL player Demaryius Thomas suffered from CTE, a brain disease that can lead to degenerative brain diseases, before his death.
A team of doctors from Boston University studied Thomas’ brain in the wake of his passing and released their findings on Tuesday, July 5. Neuropathologist Dr. Ann McKeeABC News reported that the former Denver Broncos player had likely suffered a seizure. However, medical examiners have not yet confirmed his cause of death.
Dr. McKee clarified that CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) does not often lead to death, telling the outlet, “You don’t die from CTE. What CTE does is it changes your behavior and your personality.”
The Denver Broncos, where Thomas played for eight years, announced his “sudden, tragic passing” in December 2021. “D.T. “D.T. Recently retiring as a Bronco, we were very music looking forward to celebrating Demaryius for years to come as one of the greatest players in franchise history,” a statement shared via Twitter read. “We have lost an incredible player and a special person in Demaryius Thomas. Our hearts and deepest sympathies go out to the Thomas family and all who are grieving this unimaginable loss.”
The team added, “Demaryius’ humility, warmth, kindness and infectious smile will always be remembered by those who knew him and loved him.”
Thomas was found unresponsive in his Roswell, Georgia house just before his 34th birthday. Thomas was a former New England Patriots teammate. Tom Brady honored the wide receiver’s legacy with a touching tribute, tweeting alongside a selfie, “We were all blessed with his humility and positive spirit, and we will all miss him. This photo is from the Hall of Fame in August. It is a source of light and joy as always. RIP.”
CNN reported that authorities responded to a medical concern at the time, but did not release any details. According to Thomas’ loved ones, the two-time AFC champ began struggling with seizures after he was involved in a 2019 car crash.
“His mood would change, and he would also isolate himself sometimes,” his mother, Katina Stuckey-SmithAccording to ABC News,. “He was like, ‘Mom, I don’t know what’s going on with my body. You know, I gotta get myself together,’ and he said, ‘I don’t feel like myself anymore.’”
While seizures aren’t a typical side effect of CTE — which is caused by repeated blows to the head — Thomas also experienced more known symptoms of the cognitive illness, including memory loss, paranoia and other erratic behavior.
After playing for the Broncos for ten seasons, Thomas retired from the NFL on June 20, 2021. He was a key player in the team’s win against the Carolina Panthers in 2016, and he also appeared in four Pro Bowls during his career. A Georgia Tech alum, he also played for the Patriots (Broncos) and Houston Texans (New York Jets).
Thomas called his retirement “a tough decision” months before his death, noting in a June 2021 statement, “Always as a kid or always when I did something, it was always [giving]My best was to go and keep going. Football was my go. I tried to improve each year, even though I knew I was getting older. It was something tough, but I’m grateful I did 10, 11 years. I’m so grateful for that and now I can move on. I’m happy, I’m healthy. And now I can try to find my next itch.”