IRVINE, Calif. - The parents of former Washington State University quarterback Tyler Hilinski, who took his own life in January, have revealed their son had Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in an interview with Sports Illustrated.
CTE is degenerative brain disease found in athletes, military veterans, and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma.
A letter from the Mayo Clinic on Tyler's neuropathology report, dated March 2, 2016, reads, "After reviewing the tissue we can confirm that he (Tyler) had pathology of chronic traumatic encephalopathy."
"They said the Tau protein was something you would never see in someone who was 21 years old, but in a much more older, elderly man." Kym Hilinski, Tyler's mother, told Sports Illustrated. "And that was shocking, because, I mean, we know Tyler. Yes, he was quiet. Yes, he was a little bit more reserved, but he was always happy."
The CTE diagnosis was Stage 1, which is the lowest level.
Tyler was just 21-years-old when he died and was poised to be the Cougars' starting quarterback this fall. Months later, his parents are still left wondering why their son would choose to take his life and how much CTE played a role in his death.
"Did football kill Tyler? I don't think so. Did he get CTE from football? Probably. Was that the only thing that contributed to his death? I don't know," said Kym.
"The reality is we missed it and we let him down," said Mark Hilinski, Tyler's father.
After Tyler's death, the Hilinski family formed the Hilinski's Hope foundation. Its mission is to fund programs that will help educate, advocate and destigmatize mental illness.
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