The family of Lawrence Phillips, former NFL running back, have decided to donate the brain of the late NFL player to chronic traumatic encephalopathy researchers at Boston University. Their attorney confirmed the news on USA Today Sports.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a form of psychological disbalance, is a progressive degenerative disease found in people who have suffered repetitive brain trauma, including sub-concussive hits to the head that do not cause immediate symptoms.
Phillips, the 40-year-old retired footballer, was found in the state of unconsciousness at Kern Valley State Prison in California and took his last breaths at a hospital early Wednesday. The Kern County coroner’s office on Friday ruled his death a suicide. He had been awaiting a trial, which could have brought him the death penalty for the crime of murdering his cell mate.
As reported by ESPN, according to their attorney, Dan Chamberlain, Juanita Phillips, the mother of Lawrence Philips, initially decided against donating her son’s brain to research, but made a long thought and finally reverted her decision in the hopes of getting the answer to “why?”
“She wanted an explanation about what happened, and I told her, ‘Look, the only way you can really explain it is by examining his brain,’… I told her, ‘You owe it to your son. You owe it to every other NFL, college, pee wee, high school and middle school player that played football.’ “
This brings the cases of brain trauma to significant focus of the National Football League, which has recently seen quite a few of its high profile players committing suicide. The list includes Junior Seau, Dave Duerson, and Adrian Robinson.
In September this year, the attorney made a case that the violent behaviors of Thomas could have been caused by the injuries he suffered while playing football in the league. Chamberlain had told USA Today Sports that Phillips would receive an estimated $1.4 million from the $1 billion settlement the NFL reached with retired players, and that it would be used to fund his legal defense against a first-degree murder charge.
Phillips was arrested for suspected murder of his cellmate, Damion Soward, 37 and the cousin of former University of Southern California and NFL wide receiver R. Jay Soward.
Phillips’ death will now be reviewed by the federal officers who controls the prison medical system. Federal officials and lawyers involved in a long-running lawsuit over the care of mentally ill inmates are also expected to accompany them.
Philips was sentenced to 31 years of prison life after he was convicted of twice choking his girlfriend in 2005 in San Diego and of driving his car into three teens later that year after a pickup football game in Los Angeles.
Before joining the big league, Phillips rushed for 2,269 yards and 25 touchdowns during the 1994 and 1995 national championship seasons for Nebraska, a performance which made a way for his NFL career. His NFL career was, however, anticlimactic to his championship endeavors. His disappointing NFL career lasted for just three seasons, during which he played for three teams and compiled just 1,453 rushing yards in 35 games.
According to BU CTE Program spokesperson Maria Pantages Ober, Phillips’ brain will be sent to researchers at Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Program, where along with the Department of Veteran Affairs. An alarming statistic — they have identified CTE in the brain tissue of 88 out of 92 former NFL players they have examined prior to death.
Now that the brain has been donated for further research, when the final report is made public, it would certainly be a topic of discussion in the sports because if indeed he was suffering from CTE, then the numbers do not look very good for the biggest football league in the world.
[Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Gettyimages]