EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - NOVEMBER 24: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Demaryius Thomas #18 of the New York Jets in action against the Oakland Raiders at MetLife Stadium on November 24, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jets defeated the Raiders 34-3.
Demaryius Thomas, New York Jets (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Demaryius Thomas’s death last December shocked the NFL

The NFL was shaken when ex-Broncos great WR Demaryius Thomas died suddenly at the age of 33. Peyton Manning and others took to social media to mourn the loss of their teammate and friend.

After nearly nine productive seasons in Denver, Thomas finished out his career with a brief stint in Houston and one season in 2019 with the New York Jets.

The coroner’s office has not yet ruled on the official cause of Thomas’s death. The family believes Thomas had a seizure while in the shower. Thomas suffered from seizures for over a year prior to his death.

Now, reports from doctors at Boston University indicate that in addition to the seizures, the ex-star receiver was suffering from Stage 2 chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Thomas’s family said that his seizures began following a 2019 car accident and not from CTE. Still, Thomas had other symptoms associated with the disease: memory loss, paranoia, and other erratic behavior.

CTE is a degenerative brain condition caused by repeated hits to the head and concussions. It can be diagnosed only posthumously. It has been in the news for nearly a decade, most notably when former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez took his own life in prison after a murder conviction.

Other prominent NFL players who were diagnosed with CTE following their deaths include Junior Seau, the Hall of Fame Chargers linebacker who committed suicide in 2012; Earl Morrall, quarterback of the 17-0 Dolphins in 1972; Dwight Clark of ‘The Catch’ fame; John Mackey, Hall of Fame tight end for the Baltimore Colts and Super Bowl V champion; Ken ‘The Snake’ Stabler, Hall of Fame Raiders QB and Super Bowl champ who was part of some of the most iconic plays in NFL history; ‘Iron Mike’ Webster, Hall of Fame center of the four-time Super Bowl champion 1970s Steelers; and Frank Gifford, Hall of Fame Giants RB and long-time Monday Night Football commentator.

CTE causes brain injury that leads to disturbing behavior and mood changes. Some symptoms include short-term memory loss, increasing confusion, erratic moods, impulse control problems, aggression, and paranoia.

Thomas is the latest ex-NFL player to be diagnosed with CTE following an untimely death. This continues to raise questions about the safety of playing in the NFL. The greater societal question continues about whether parents should allow their children to play tackle football.

In 10 seasons in the league, Thomas put up 724 receptions for 9763 yards and 63 TDs. He was a Super Bowl champion in 2015 with the Broncos, also racking up four Pro Bowl nods and two second-team All-Pro honors.

Thomas’s stint with the Jets was brief, but fans will mourn the loss of an NFL star who died before his time.

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Rivka Boord has followed the Jets since the age of five. She is known locally for her in-depth knowledge of football. She hopes to empower young women to follow their dreams and join the sports conversation. Boord's background in analytics infuses her articles with unique insights into the state of the Jets' franchise and the NFL as a whole.
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