Dave Mirra, icon of extreme sports and one of the pioneering athletes of the X-Games, was suffering from the effects of multiple concussions accumulated throughout his athletic career at the time of his death, post-mortem examinations have found.
Mirra, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on February 4th, was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy after Doctors examining his brain discovered chronic injuries similar to those suffered by other contact-sport athletes.
CTE is a chronic condition believed to be the result of multiple concussions (largely undiagnosed, suffered on top of one another, and accumulated over a lengthy period of time) that can cause mood swings and rage episodes, memory loss, confusion, anxiety, and severe depression. The brain develops abscesses or lesions that contain an excess build-up of the protein tau, which has been linked to fluid in the brain of patients who experience poor recovery from a brain injury. The symptoms and effects are similar in nature to Alzheimer’s Disease.
The condition has been linked to the early deaths of a score of professional football and hockey players, as well as professional wrestlers. Notable past cases included former NFL football star Junior Seau (who committed suicide at age 43 in 2012), pro-footballer and actor Bubba Smith (who died in 2011 at age 66), and professional wrestler Chris Benoit (who infamously murdered his wife and young son before taking his own life in 2007 aged just 40).
Currently, there is no way to definitively diagnose the condition in the living. All diagnosis and examination efforts must be done post-death. Of the 94 former NFL players to have donated their brains to CTE research, 90 have returned positive diagnoses.
Mirra is the first “extreme” athlete to be diagnosed with the condition.
In a statement issued after the diagnosis became public, Mirra’s wife Lauren thanked the public for their support, and pledged to help the continued research into CTE.
“We would like to thank our family, friends and the overwhelming number of Dave’s fans who have supported us during this difficult time. We ask for your continued support in honouring Dave’s legacy and for your patience as we plan to create a platform for CTE awareness and research.”
Dave Mirra was only 41. Research into CTE remains an on-going, and pressing, issue in professional sports medicine.
Photo: Christian Peteresen/Getty.