When the former Giants safety Tyler Sash was found dead at age 27 of an accidental overdose of pain medications at his Iowa home on Sept. 8, his grieving family remained consumed by a host of unanswered questions about the final, perplexing years of Sash’s life.
Cut by the Giants in 2013 after what was at least his fifth concussion, Sash had returned to Iowa and increasingly displayed surprising and irregular behavior, family members said this week. He was arrested in his hometown, Oskaloosa, for public intoxication after leading the police on a four-block chase with a motorized scooter, a pursuit that ended with Sash fleeing toward a wooded area.Sash had bouts of confusion, memory loss and minor fits of temper. Although an Iowa sports celebrity, both as a Super Bowl-winning member of the Giants and a popular star athlete at the University of Iowa, Sash was unable to seek meaningful employment because he had difficulty focusing long enough to finish a job.Barnetta Sash, Tyler’s mother, blamed much of her son’s changeable behavior, which she had not observed in the past, on the powerful prescription drugs he was taking for a football-related shoulder injury that needed surgery. Nonetheless, after his death she donated his brain to be tested for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated trauma that has been found in dozens of former N.F.L. players.Last week, representatives from Boston University and the Concussion Legacy Foundation notified the Sash family that C.T.E. had been diagnosed in Tyler’s brain and that the disease, which can be confirmed only posthumously, had advanced to a stage rarely seen in someone his age.Dr. Ann McKee, chief of neuropathology at the V.A. Boston Healthcare System and a professor of neurology and pathology at the Boston University School of Medicine who conducted the examination, said Tuesday that the severity of the C.T.E. in Sash’s brain was about the same as the level found in the brain of the former N.F.L. star Junior Seau, who committed suicide in 2012 at age 43.Doctors grade C.T.E. on a severity scale from 0 to 4; Sash was at Stage 2. McKee, comparing the results to other athletes who died at a similar age, said she had seen only one case, that of a 25-year-old former college player, with a similar amount of the disease.The Sash family, who released the findings, said the outcome brought some clarity to the end of Tyler Sash’s life.“My son knew something was wrong, but he couldn’t express it,” Barnetta Sash said Monday night. “He was such a good person, and it’s sad that he struggled so with this — not knowing where to go with it.”She continued: “Now it makes sense. The part of the brain that controls impulses, decision-making and reasoning was damaged badly.”
And these concussions didn't just come in the NFL:
Sash came from a football family. His father, Michael, played in college and his brother, Josh, was a good enough high school player that he considered playing in college as well.Josh Sash, eight years older than Tyler, said his brother sustained at least two concussions in high school, one documented concussion in college and two with the Giants, including one in the Giants’ playoff victory over the San Francisco 49ers that earned the team its berth in the Super Bowl after the 2011 season.In the San Francisco game, Sash, who was 215 pounds, was blindsided by a brutal and borderline late hit on a punt return by a 281-pound defensive lineman.“Those concussions are the ones we definitely know about,” Josh Sash said. “If you’ve played football, you know there are often other incidents.”
Indeed, the other, "lesser" incidents of trauma can be just as damaging as concussions:
Experts believe that less severe blows to the head — those not strong enough to cause a concussion — also significantly contribute to the damage that results in C.T.E. These lesser traumas are especially troubling, neurologists say, because they happen frequently in contact sports like football but go undiagnosed.
Like boxing, I don't think football should be banned.
But know that every time you watch an NFL football game, a good portion of the players on that field are going to end up with C.T.E or some other brain-related disease.
If you can still watch football knowing the damage that is being done, more power to you.
Same goes for the men willing to play it.
As for who gets to play the "game," I think there needs to be a conversation about it:
Josh Sash, who has two young sons, said it would be difficult for him to recommend that his children play football when they grow older. Barnetta Sash, who said she had always loved football, felt similarly.
“I want other parents to realize they need to have a conversation with their kids and not just think it’s a harmless game — because it’s not,” said Barnetta Sash, whose daughter, Megan, has three children.
I used to be a huge football fan, but as the evidence has become overwhelming in the last few years that playing football destroys men's brains, I can no longer do it.
How many NY Giants have we learned about in just the past few years who died of brain-related injuries?
There was Frank Gifford and Dave Jennings, now Tyler Sash.
You can bet there will be more.
Football is said to be the national pastime, kinda like the Roman Coliseum was the national pastime for the Roman Empire.
But with our modern day gladiators, the football players, the deaths come off the field after their playing days are over.