Player's brain shows signs of CTE

Updated: October 22, 2009, 3:22 PM ET
Associated Press

A football player who never competed beyond the college level suffered from a degenerative brain disease previously discovered in former NFL players.

Researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine announced Thursday that Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy was diagnosed in the donated brain of Mike Borich, who died of a drug overdose at age 42 in February. It was the first time an advanced case of CTE was found in a player who did not advance past the college game.

The findings suggest athletes could be at risk for CTE even if they don't make the pros, greatly expanding the pool of ex-football players who may suffer from the disease. CTE has been discovered post-mortem in at least seven recently deceased former NFL players.

The study first was reported by The New York Times.

Borich played wide receiver at Snow College and Western Illinois University in the 1980s, then later coached in college and in the NFL. He was estimated to have had 10 concussions during his career. Borich struggled with drug and alcohol addiction late in his life, similar to others who have suffered from CTE.

"There are probably a lot of other people out there with dementia, depression, lack of impulse control, addictive behaviors," said Dr. Robert Cantu, a professor of neurosurgery who serves as co-director of the school's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy.

CTE, originally found in boxers, is caused by repetitive trauma to the brain, with similar symptoms to Alzheimer's disease.

Borich's father, Joe, said he found relief in the diagnosis, an explanation for the ways his son changed in his final years. Mike Borich served as wide receivers coach for the Chicago Bears from 1999-2000, then spent two seasons as BYU's offensive coordinator. But he had been out of coaching since 2003 as he fought addiction.

Joe Borich, who played college football at Utah, knows there are no easy decisions for young players. His own grandson, a high school sophomore, is a talented athlete, and his daughter resisted the suggestion that the boy shouldn't get his chance to shine in the sport.

"Gosh, I don't know what the answer is," Borich said. "If this study can help somehow progress the knowledge, it's worth it."


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press