Vincent Jackson, former NFL player found dead in hotel room, had CTE, family says

His family said Vincent Jackson, a former Tampa Bay wide receiver, had stage 2 CTE, a form of brain degeneration that’s been found in other athletes.

Jackson’s family revealed the diagnosis in a statement Thursday, 10 months after he was found dead in a hotel room outside of Tampa, Florida.

His widow, Lindsey Jackson, said, “Vincent devoted so much of his life to helping others. Even after his death, I know he will want to continue the same legacy.”

Jackson’s family said researchers diagnosed him with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, also known as CTE. The disorder, likely from repetitive head trauma, has been found in the brains of people who play soccer and other contact sports.

Little is known about CTE, which is associated with mood disorders including depression, aggressiveness, impulsive behavior, memory loss, and cognitive impairment, according to the Mayo Clinic. It can only be diagnosed by autopsy, as it requires evidence of brain tissue degeneration.

Jackson’s family said they donated his brain to the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank at Boston University and that they wanted to share the diagnosis to help raise awareness about the disorder.

“There is still a lot to understand about CTE, and education is key to prevention,” said Lindsey Jackson. “The conversation on this topic needs to be more widespread, and our family hopes that others will feel comfortable and supported when talking about CTE moving forward.”

Dr. Ann Mackie of the VA Boston Healthcare System and VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank said Jackson had developed depression and had experienced “progressive amnesia” and paranoia.

“Vincent Jackson was a smart, disciplined, and kind giant whose life began to change in his mid-30s. It no longer surprises us that his brain showed stage 2 CTE; these findings have become commonplace,” Mackie said in the press release.

“Surprisingly enough, many footballers have died of CTE, and not much has been done to make football, at all levels, safer by reducing the number of repetitive hits under impact,” she said. “CTE is not going to go away by ignoring it, we need to address the risk football poses to brain health and support the players who are suffering.”

The NFL has acknowledged a link between CTE and playing football. In recent years, it has reformed concussion protocols to impose stricter penalties and restrictions on players.

Jackson was found dead in a room in Brandon’s Homewood Suites on February 15 by a housekeeper who went to check on him. The cause and manner of death are pending.

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