Steve Young calls for ‘better’ CTE treatment

Greg Clark (85) catches a touchdown pass from Steve Young in a 1999 playoff win over the Green Bay Packers. (Reuters)

Editor’s note: Anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

A neurosurgeon recently confirmed what Greg Clark’s family had long suspected.

The former San Francisco 49ers tight end suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy before taking his own life last year. Clark died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound aged 49 in July 2021. At the time, his family released a statement that he had battled symptoms of CTE before his death.

Boston University researchers who have since examined Clark’s brain confirmed to the San Jose Mercury News and USA Today in articles published Friday that he did indeed have stage 3 CTE.

“CTE is a progressive disease and it gets worse with age,” Dr. Ann McKee told Mercury News. “Even though Greg retired before the age of 30, the disease continued to progress and spread from those lesions, which is very typical for ETC. His disease had spread to the inside the brain, the parts that control learning and memory.

Steve Young: ‘We have to be better’

Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young played his last three NFL seasons with Clark on the 49ers from 1997 to 1999. A traumatic brain injury also took its toll on Young, who suffered repeated concussions throughout the throughout his NFL career. Fear of permanent brain damage played a part in his decision to retire after the 1999 season. arizona.

He told USA Today on Friday that “we have to be better” at helping former players cope with traumatic brain injury.

“It’s painful to think of people suffering in silence,” Young said. “We have to be better. We have to understand it. It’s on the minds of a lot of people, a lot of players, how to create an environment where people can share vulnerabilities and fears that would probably never be shared elsewhere.”

While Young called for better treatment of former players suffering from CTE, he refrained from criticizing football for its role in its cause in the first place.

“I think people should stop trying to attack football,” Young told USA Today.

According to the Mayo Clinic, CTE is a degenerative brain disorder associated with depression, memory loss, cognitive impairment, and behavioral changes, including increased aggression. It is believed to be caused by repeated head trauma commonly seen in football players. It can only be diagnosed by a post-mortem examination of the brain.

CTE has been diagnosed in several former NFL players who died by suicide, including former San Diego Chargers great Junior Seau. Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez received a post-mortem diagnosis of Stage 3 CTE in 2017. Hernandez committed suicide in a jail cell in 2017 while serving time at life for the murder of Odin Lloyd.

McKee, the director of the CTE Center at BU, also confirmed Hernandez’s diagnosis.


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