TAMPA, Fla. — Former Chargers and Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who was found dead earlier this year in a Florida hotel room, has been diagnosed with Stage 2 chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the Concussion Legacy Foundation announced Thursday.
Jackson, who spent seven seasons playing for the Chargers and five for the Buccaneers, was found dead in a Brandon, Florida, hotel room in February after his family reported him missing. He had been staying at the hotel for a month. He was 38 years old.
“Vincent dedicated so much of his life to helping others. Even in his passing, I know he would want to continue that same legacy,” Jackson’s widow, Lindsey Jackson, said in a statement.
“By donating his brain to the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank, we hope to continue to see advancements in CTE research, enabling physicians to diagnose the disease in the living and ultimately find treatment options in the future. There is still a lot to be understood about CTE, and education is the key to prevention. The conversation around this topic needs to be more prevalent, and our family hopes that others will feel comfortable and supported when talking about CTE moving forward.”
CTE is a condition of brain degeneration caused from repetitive blows to the head. It affects mood, thinking and behavior, and symptoms may not appear for years. It is marked by widespread accumulation of a protein called tau. It cannot be diagnosed in the living, nor can it be found in a traditional autopsy.
“Vincent Jackson was a brilliant, disciplined, gentle giant whose life began to change in his mid-30s. He became depressed, with progressive memory loss, problem solving difficulties, paranoia, and eventually extreme social isolation,” Dr. Ann McKee, chief of neuropathology for the VA Boston Healthcare System and director of the BU CTE Center and VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank, said in a statement.
“That his brain showed stage 2 CTE should no longer surprise us; these results have become commonplace,” McKee said of Jackson. “What is surprising is that so many football players have died with CTE and so little is being done to make football, at all levels, safer by limiting the number of repetitive subconcussive hits. CTE will not disappear by ignoring it, we need to actively address the risk that football poses to brain health and to support the players who are struggling.”
Jackson is the second former player this week confirmed to have Stage 2 CTE.
Former NFL cornerback Phillip Adams was 32 when he shot and killed himself and six others in Rock Hill, South Carolina in April, and was found to have an “extraordinary amount of CTE” in the frontal lobe of his brain, according to McKee, who studied the brains of both athletes.
In 12 seasons, Jackson recorded 540 catches for 9,080 yards and 57 touchdowns. He reached the 1,000-yard threshold in six of those seasons, and he was named to the Pro Bowl three times.
He was the Buccaneers’ Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee for four seasons before retiring from football in 2016, dedicating his life to helping military families through his Jackson in Action 83 Foundation. He also authored three children’s books, designed to help children and their families cope with challenges unique to the military. He also owned five restaurants.