“Medical examiner said he had the brain of a 65-year-old, which is really hard to take.” Parents of Tyler Hilinski, the promising football player who took his own life at 21, discuss the findings from their son’s autopsy. pic.twitter.com/UTVcnWNIm3— TODAY (@TODAYshow) June 26, 2018
Former Washington State University football quarterback Tyler Hilinski took his own life five months ago. Now, his parents are saying an autopsy revealed he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) prior to his death.
After Hilinski fatally shot himself in his Pullman, Washington, apartment in January, an autopsy revealed that the backup quarterback had a degenerative brain disorder.
"It was a shock to get those results and to find out that he had it and to realize that the sport that he loved may have contributed to that diagnosis," his mom, Kym Hilinski, told reporters.
The condition, which has been associated with football in recent studies, was clear to the doctors who examined him after his death.
“The medical examiner said he had the brain of a 65-year-old, which is really hard to take," the player’s father, Mark Hilinski, said. “... he was the sweetest, most outgoing, giving kid. That was difficult to hear."
Just before committing suicide, the player was projected to be the team’s starting quarterback this fall. At the time, many of his colleagues and former coaches expressed great pain at the loss of their friend.
Ty you were a great teammate, friend, brother anything we needed you to be. You brought smiles to the people around you. I am sorry I could not be there for you when you needed a smile for yourself. Love you man. Rest In Peace???? pic.twitter.com/LmNC1ZLNZi— Skyler Thomas (@Sky_Dolla_Sign) January 17, 2018
God, let Tyler find peace. Everyone please pray for the Hilinski family tonight. Heaven received a very special person. pic.twitter.com/mx4i1MoOhK— John Bledsoe (@johnbledsoe11) January 17, 2018
Words can’t describe what I’m feeling right now. My heart is beyond saddened. Please pray for the family and all of us affected!— Roy Manning (@CoachRoyM) January 17, 2018
The CTE diagnosis is just one more case researchers have been able to link to trauma football players experience. In 2017, the Mayo Clinic found that 110 out of 111 former NFL players’ brains donated for research had CTE.
According to Chris Nowinski of Concussion Legacy Foundation, Hilinski is the second active college football player whose brain showed presence of the disease. Perhaps what’s more haunting is that the first active college football player to show signs of the disease was University of Pennsylvania player Owen Thomas, who also committed suicide in 2010.
According to Brain Injury Research Institute, “impulsive or erratic behavior, impaired judgment, [and] behavioral disturbances including aggression and depression” are all symptoms of the condition.
Hopefully, this recent diagnosis can help researchers look into the causes of this condition so that solutions can be developed that would protect future generations of players.