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November 4th

Former NFL player Kevin Turner’s death caused by CTE, not ALS

  • Judicial
  • Other
  • Neuroscience

The Washington Post - Former New England Patriots and Phialdelphia Eagles fullback Kevin Turner, who played in the NFL from 1992 to 1999, died in March at age 46. Turner was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in 2010, but Thursday the Boston University Brain CTE Center announced that it was a severe case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy that killed him, not ALS.

Ann McKee, the director of the center at Boston, made the announcement, noting, “This is the best circumstantial evidence we will ever get that this ALS-type of motor neuron disease is caused by CTE.’’ Per the Boston Globe, Turner’s parents attended the news conference, as did assorted family members of other NFL players diagnosed with the brain disease. McKee also said that the severity of Turner’s specific case of CTE, which can only be diagnosed postmortem, was “extraordinary and unprecedented for an athlete who died in his 40s.’’

Thursday’s announcement calls into question the status of an appeal to the Supreme Court of the NFL’s concussion settlementPer Daniel Kaplan of Sports Business Journal, attorney Deepak Gupta, representing the players in their appeal of the settlement in which Turner is a named plaintiff, called the center’s findings “a bombshell.”

While ALS is covered under the current terms of the settlement, CTE is not.

“The one thing the settlement had going for it was that it delivered compensation to a player suffering present injury — people with a ‘qualifying diagnosis’,” Gupta said. “This means that the one person put forward as a representative for all the players with present injuries isn’t even in that category.”

McKee noted that 17 brain autopsies performed on athletes thought to have died of ALS, including both football and soccer players, in fact reflected the cause of death to be CTE.

“Like Ken Stabler, it turns out that Kevin Turner is actually in the group that this settlement leaves out in the cold — players who die with a CTE diagnosis after the settlement,” Gupta said in reference to the former NFL quarterback who died of colon cancer in the summer of 2015 and was found to have suffered from CTE during an autopsy on his brain peformed at the BU center by McKee.  “If the settlement doesn’t even serve one of the two named representatives, what confidence can anyone have that this is a fair deal?”

Image citation: John Martinez Pavliga, CC BY 2.0