Washington State University Quarterback Tyler Hilinski Had CTE and ‘the Brain of a 65-Year-Old’ When He Committed Suicide

FILE – In this Sept. 17, 2016, file photo, Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski (3) runs onto the field with his teammates before an NCAA college football game against Idaho, in Pullman, Wash. The family of the Washington State University football player who died of suicide in January said the 21-year-old quarterback had extensive brain damage that’s been linked to concussions from playing the sport. Tyler Hilinski was found dead in his apartment with a gunshot wound and a suicide note on Jan. 16. Mark and Kym Hilinski told NBC’s “Today” show on Tuesday, June 26, 2018, that the Mayo Clinic did an autopsy of their son’s brain.(AP Photo/Young Kwak, File) NY154 NY154 (Young Kwak / The Associated Press)

The parents of Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski say an autopsy performed after his January suicide showed evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in his brain.

Speaking Tuesday to NBC’s “Today,” Mark and Kym Hilinski said the Mayo Clinic conducted the autopsy on Tyler, who died at 21 on Jan. 16 in Pullman, Washington. Police say Hilinski shot himself in the head with a rifle that belonged to a former teammate. The autopsy findings showed Stage 1 CTE.

“Did football kill Tyler? I don’t think so,” Kym Hilinski said in a Sports Illustrated documentary about Tyler’s life. “Did he get CTE from [playing] football? Probably. Was that the only thing that contributed to his death? I don’t know.”

Mark Hilinski told “Today” that the medical examiner determined Tyler “had the brain of a 65-year-old, which is really hard to take.” Tyler Hilinski’s parents said their son exhibited no obvious signs leading up to his suicide, and Tyler had never fired a gun until the day before his death. But they told Sports Illustrated that Tyler had become less responsive to calls and text messages late last season and after a family vacation to Mexico in January.

Washington State said in a statement to “Today” that it has enhanced its protocols for football players, including a second formal mental health screening and meetings with players “who might be at risk for mental health issues.” Tyler Hilinski’s family has started Hilinski’s Hope, a foundation to help schools better support athletes dealing with mental illness.

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SOURCE: ESPN, Adam Rittenberg