Former Denver Broncos quarterback Cullen Finnerty, who was found dead in May, appears to have suffered from pneumonia.
Finnerty was reported missing following a fishing trip on the Baldwin River. He was found dead on May 28, 2013, in Lake County, Michigan. An autopsy revealed Thursday that the player died from pneumonia caused by inhaling his vomit.
It appears that the player became paranoid while in the woods, which could have been brought on by a combination of the painkiller oxycodone and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The NFL has in recent years face ongoing controversy of the degenerative brain disease, which has been found in a number of ex-football players.
Finnerty's paranoid episode in the woods was not his first, according to the player's wife. Instead of completing a planned trip home last year, the player headed to the Michigan Rapids instead, fearing he was being following by the FBI, the Associated Press said in a report.
Symptoms of encephalopathy, also known as CTE, include aggression, depression, suicidality and progressive dementia. Links to the condition and NFL players began in 2011 after former NFL lineman Shane Dronett was diagnosed with the disease and later committed suicide out of paranoia.
"There is evidence of CTE in his brain making him yet another former NFL player who had definite CTE," said Chris Nowinski, co-director of the traumatic encephalopathy center in 2011 interview with CNN. Nowinski said the center has found evidence of CTE in the brains of 13 of 14 former NFL players, including Dronett.
More recent studies however have suggested that former NFL players are no more and no less likely to suffer from the disease. A 2013 study led by Christopher Randolph, PhD, of Loyola University Medical Center, researched the presence of the disease amongst 531 retired NFL players. The results revealed that an estimated 35 percent of players suffered from cognitive impairment- a number that Randolph suggests is average.
"The retired NFL players basically look like regular patients who have mild cognitive impairment and have never played football," he told News Medical in an August 8th report.