A brain exam performed on deceased former NFL running back Mosi Tatupu revealed that the longtime Patriots player likely suffered from the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, also known as CTE, according to the Boston Globe.
Tatupu's ex-wife, Linnea Garcia-Tatupu, donated part of his brain tissue to the CTE Center at Boston University last year. In October, center director Dr. Ann McKee found "fairly widespread deposits" of tau protein in the tissue examined, a symptom associated only with CTE.
No test or method currently exists that can identify CTE in the living. The degenerative disease, thought to result from the type of repetitive head injuries common in football, causes symptoms such as memory loss, aggression, depression and erratic behavior, among others.
Garcia-Tatupu told the Globe that Tatupu grew aloof and forgetful and eventually began drinking heavily toward the end of his NFL career, which lasted from 1978-91. The behavioral changes led to the end of the couple's marriage. Tatupu died in 2010 at the age of 54.
“To this day, I can’t stand the sound of the equipment hitting together,” said Garcia-Tatupu. She worries their 32-year-old son, Lofa, a former linebacker who played six seasons for the Seattle Seahawks, may develop the disease.
“If I knew then what I know now, would I have encouraged Mosi’s dream? Would I have encouraged Lofa’s dream?” Garcia-Tatupu said. “I wouldn’t have. The risk is not worth the reward.”
Signs associated with CTE have been found in the brains of multiple former NFL players over the past half-decade, including Junior Seau, who committed suicide in May 2012, and Jovan Belcher, who shot and killed his girlfriend before later killing himself in December 2012.
Scrutiny over the NFL's handling of player safety has increased in recent years due in part to increased research surrounding CTE and head injuries.
The NFL has faced multiple lawsuits relating to player safety in the past several years, most notably one from more than 4,000 retired players that claimed the league knew more about the dangers of head injuries than it let on. A revised settlement for the lawsuit was approved last summer.
After playing collegiately at USC, Tatupu played for the Patriots from 1978-90, making one Pro Bowl. He played his final season for the Los Angeles Rams.
- Ben Estes