Former NFL wide receiver Vincent Jackson diagnosed with stage 2 CTE – USA TODAY

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Correction/clarification: A previous headline on this story incorrectly referenced the manner of Vincent Jackson’s death, which has not yet been announced by the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office.
The family of late NFL wide receiver Vincent Jackson announced Thursday that he has been diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy – the degenerative brain disease more commonly known as CTE.
Jackson’s family donated his brain to researchers after the 38-year-old was found dead in a Tampa, Florida hotel room in February. The family had suspected that the effects of concussions from Jackson’s football career might have contributed to his death.
“There is still a lot to be understood about CTE, and education is the key to prevention,” Jackson’s widow, Lindsey, said in a statement. 
“The conversation around this topic needs to be more prevalent, and our family hopes that others will feel comfortable and supported when talking about CTE moving forward.”
According to a news release, researchers at the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank diagnosed Jackson with stage 2 CTE – which has been associated with behavioral symptoms like depression, paranoia, substance abuse and impulsivity. Stage 4 is the most severe.
VINCENT JACKSON:His death confounds those who saw him thrive after NFL career
The announcement of Jackson’s CTE diagnosis came less than 48 hours after a similar announcement regarding another former NFL player, Phillip Adams. Adams, who in April shot to death six people and killed himself, also had stage 2 CTE.
Ann McKee, a neuropathologist who examined both brains, said in a statement that diagnoses like Jackson’s “should no longer surprise us.”
“These results have become commonplace,” McKee, who is also the director of the Boston University CTE Center, said in a statement. “What is surprising is that so many football players have died with CTE and so little is being done to make football, at all levels, safer by limiting the number of repetitive subconcussive hits.”
Though CTE can only be diagnosed after death, evidence of the disease has been found in the brains of more than 300 former NFL players to date. And a 2019 study by Boston University found a link between the number of years spent playing the sport and the odds of contracting CTE.
Jackson played football for 23 years, including 12 years in the NFL. He was a three-time Pro Bowler with the then-San Diego Chargers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, known for both his physicality on the field and his penchant for charity off it. The Buccaneers nominated him for the league’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award four times in five years.
Jackson turned to business after retiring from the NFL in 2018, investing in restaurants and real estate, among other projects. But his family later told investigators that they believed he also suffered from alcoholism.
Authorities indicated that Jackson had been staying at a Homewood Suites on the outskirts of Tampa, Florida for more than a month before he was found dead on Feb. 15. According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Jackson’s family had reported him as missing in the week before he was found, but he was later located at the hotel by law enforcement. Officers conducted a wellness check on Feb. 12 – a Friday – and subsequently canceled the missing persons report.
That weekend, hotel staff saw Jackson “seated on the couch, slouched over” in his room on both Saturday and Sunday but thought he was sleeping, according to a preliminary report from the medical examiner’s office. Staff called 911 on Monday when a housekeeper found him in the same position.
The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office is expected to release Jackson’s autospy report next week.
Contributing: Josh Peter
Contact Tom Schad at or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.


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