Hot Topic Pro football
Bengals' Henry had brain injury
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. -- Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry suffered from a chronic brain injury that may have influenced his mental state and behavior before he died last winter, West Virginia University researchers said Monday.
The doctors had done a microscopic tissue analysis of Henry's brain that showed he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
Neurosurgeon Julian Bailes and California medical examiner Bennet Omalu, co-directors of the Brain Injury Research Institute at WVU, announced their findings alongside Henry's mother, Carolyn Henry Glaspy, who called it a "big shock" because she knew nothing about her 26-year-old son's underlying condition or the disease.
Henry died in December, a day after he came out of the back of a pickup truck his fiancee was driving near their home in Charlotte. It's unclear whether Henry jumped or fell. Toxicology tests found no alcohol in his system, and an autopsy concluded he died of numerous head injuries, including a fractured skull and brain hemorrhaging.
But Bailes, team doctor for the Mountaineers and a former Pittsburgh Steelers physician, said it's easy to distinguish those acute traumatic injuries from the underlying condition he and Omalu found when staining tiny slices of Henry's brain.
Bailes and fellow researchers believe chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, is caused by multiple head impacts, regardless of whether those blows result in a concussion diagnosis. A number of studies, including one commissioned by the NFL, have found that retired professional football players may have a higher rate than normal of Alzheimer's disease and other memory problems.
What's interesting, Bailes said, is that Henry was only 26, and neither NFL nor WVU records show he was diagnosed with a concussion during his playing career.
But it doesn't take a collision with another player for brain trauma to occur.
"The brain floats freely in your skull," Omalu said. "If you're moving very quickly and suddenly stop, the brain bounces."
And over time, with repetition, that causes big problems.
CTE carries specific neurobehavioral symptoms, Bailes said -- typically, failure at personal and business relationships, use of drugs and alcohol, depression and suicide.