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Two-time Pro Bowler and former Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams DB Irv Cross has been posthumously diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.
The Associated Press reports that Cross — who died in 2021 at the age of 81 — and his family had chosen to donate his brain to science. They hoped that doing so would raise awareness of the repeated blows to the head NFL players take.
After his 9-year NFL career came to an end following the 1969 season, Cross went into broadcasting. However, he experienced an array of problems. He battled mood swings, depression, and memory loss in the decades that followed. He even struggled with balance and even paranoia.
“For somebody who had been so active and so able to do everything, and an athlete, not having balance, not having strength, not being able to do any of the things he had done before, it was embarrassing,” she said. “He was pretty much in a constant state of depression.”
This eventually led to him isolating himself from everyone but his wife, Liz.
“He really didn’t want to be with people,” Liz Cross told the Associated Press. “The only person he wanted to be with was me. When he was with me, he really didn’t want to be with me. He just wanted me to be there.”
Researchers Confirmed That Cross Had Stage 4 CTE
Researchers at Boston University have revealed that at the time of his death, Cross was suffering from stage 4 CTE. That’s the final stage of CTE and is marked by significant cognition and memory and for some, the disease progresses to complete dementia.
Of the 376 former NFL players the BU CTE Center has studied they’ve diagnosed 345 of them with some stage of CTE. That’s just shy of 92%.
Chris Nowinski, the founder of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, told the AP that he met with Cross a few years before his death, and felt it was clear that he was battling CTE.
However, Nowinski said that Cross’s case is especially important to take note of because of how long he lived with CTE.
“It’s important to highlight cases like Irv Cross’ because he was able to live a long and successful life where CTE didn’t dramatically impair him,” he said. “But at the end, it was a struggle.”
Cross’ wife revealed that he told her he wouldn’t have changed a thing about his career. However, he didn’t think kids should play football.
“He would have done it again in a heartbeat,” Liz Cross said. “But he didn’t think kids should play football.”
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