Autopsy Reveals Former Penn Football Player Suffered from a Brain Injury


A brain autopsy of Owen Thomas, the University of Pennsylvania football player who committed suicide last April, revealed that he suffered from the early stages of a degenerative disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy. This condition is believed to be caused by a brain injury resulting from repeated head trauma.

More than 20 deceased NFL players have been diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy. One of the most notable of these players is former Philadelphia Eagles safety Andre Waters, who committed suicide in 2006.

Boxers have been diagnosed with the condition for years. Recently, several hockey players have developed the condition as well. Up until now, the only football players with chronic traumatic encephalopathy have played at the NFL level. The case of Owen Thomas indicates that the condition may be developing in football players at a younger age as well.

According to Thomas’ parents, he never suffered a major brain injury or concussion while playing football. Therefore, it is likely that his condition developed as a result of sustaining many smaller hits on a consistent basis from the time he was a young child.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy occurs when repeated head trauma results in large accumulations of tau proteins in the brain. These proteins kill cells in the area of the brain responsible for mood, emotions, and executive functioning. Common symptoms of the condition include:

  • Cognitive impairment
  • Dementia
  • Depression
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Tremors
  • Speaking problems
  • Loss of hearing, sight, or other senses

Several athletes suffering from this condition have ultimately committed suicide. Unfortunately, there is currently no known treatment since the disease is not detected until the person has died and undergoes a brain autopsy.

Thomas’ family is not seeking to hold anyone responsible for their son’s death, and they do not plan to file a lawsuit against the Penn football program. However, they hope that their son’s death can help raise awareness for this dangerous condition so that other young athletes do not suffer a similar fate.