Late BMX legend Dave Mirra has become the first action sports athlete to be diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, ESPN reports. The neurodegenerative brain disease, commonly known as CTE, is linked to dementia and depression and is thought to be caused by repeated trauma to the head.
Mirra died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Feb. 4, and his wife Lauren told ESPN that in the months and weeks leading up to his death, he "wasn't himself," becoming oddly distant or wildly emotional. "When I looked at him, I could see straight through him," she said. "He was lost, he was helpless."
Mirra's brain was examined by University of Toronto neuropathologist Dr. Lili-Naz Hazrati, who said there was evidence of abnormal tau protein deposits, the trademark indicator of CTE. In his BMX career, Mirra endured several concussions, and in addition to a fractured skull sustained at 19 in a car accident, he briefly tried boxing after he retired from biking. Hazrati said Mirra's brain was indistinguishable from those of CTE-diagnosed former hockey and football players. "The key is brain injury," Hazrati told ESPN. "Regardless of how you get it … you are at risk for this."
Lauren Mirra received her late husband's diagnosis in March, but her interview with ESPN published Tuesday is the first time she's spoken publicly on the subject. Read the whole thing here. Kimberly Alters