Former professional football player Phillip Adams, who allegedly shot and killed six people before killing himself, suffered from a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated head trauma, researchers found.
Following an autopsy of his brain, doctors found Adams, 32, had stage 2 chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which is associated with paranoia, aggression, impulsiveness, and suicidal ideation, researchers at Boston University CTE Center announced Tuesday.
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“Phillip Adams had an extraordinary amount of CTE pathology in the frontal lobe, the area of the brain behind the forehead," said Ann McKee, a neuropathologist and director of the CTE center. "Frontal lobe damage is associated with violent, impulsive or explosive behavior, a 'short fuse,' and lack of self-control. His CTE pathology might have contributed to his abnormal behaviors, in addition to other physical, psychiatric, and psychosocial factors."
Adams's family said his mental health degraded after retiring from the NFL in 2016, becoming spontaneously aggressive during conversations and prone to outbursts.
"We are pleased to have a better understanding of the mental turmoil that Phillip was dealing with during the last moments of his life," the family said in a statement. "We cannot say that we are surprised by these results, however it is shocking to hear how severe his condition was."
The family said they reviewed his health record from the NFL and discovered he tried to seek treatment. However, his claims were denied because he couldn't follow directions or remember tasks necessary to get help, such as attending doctor appointments.
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"We now know that these deficits were most likely caused by the disease," they said.
Authorities in South Carolina said Adams entered the home of a local doctor, Robert Lesslie, in April, killing him and his wife, two young grandchildren, and two air conditioner repairmen in his hometown in South Carolina. Adams shot himself shortly after during a standoff with police at his parents' nearby home.
CTE is a risk for football players due to possible repeated concussions and can lead to early death and dementia. Adams played defensive line in the NFL for six years.