Earlier this week, the Boston University CTE Center revealed that Irv Cross, who was known as a pioneer in the NFL broadcasting field, had stage 4 chronic traumatic encephalopathy at the time of his death.
The broadcaster, who also played in the NFL for eight years, died over two years ago in February 2021 at the age of 81. Cross played in the NFL from 1961 to 1969 and was a two-time Pro Bowl selection during that time. After spending time with both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Los Angeles Rams, he went on to become the first African American sports analyst on national television.
Although his cause of death was labeled as heart disease, he was diagnosed with a mild case of dementia prior to his passing, which was suspected to be the result of chronic brain injuries. Following his passing, he arranged for his brain to be donated to science.
After avidly studying his brain post-mortem, Dr. Ann McKee, director of Boston University’s CTE Center, discussed Cross’s diagnosis of CTE, an illness found in people with a history of repetitive head impacts.
“Mr. Cross was diagnosed during life with mild cognitive impairment and was found at autopsy to have stage 4 chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is the most severe type of the disease,” she said in a statement, according to CNN. “He is one of the 345 former NFL players diagnosed with CTE by the BU CTE Center and UNITE brain bank team out of 376 former NFL players studied.”
Irv Cross’s wife opens up about her husband’s struggles before death
CTE is largely characterized by memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, aggression, depression, anxiety, and impulse control issues as a result of tau protein buildup in the brain. However, the disease can only be officially diagnosed in an autopsy.
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Liz Cross, the wife of the former NFL player, discussed her husband’s behavior prior to his death. Unsurprisingly, his behavior aligned with the symptoms of CTE.
“For the last five years of his life, Irv stopped being able to do the things he loved, and his problems with his balance, memory, and delusions were very embarrassing and depressing for him,” she relayed. “His life became a constant struggle, and he suspected it was from CTE. Now that we know for sure, Irv would want others to learn about the disease and the risks of playing tackle football, especially for children.”
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