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Former Patriots RB Kevin Turner died from CTE in March, not ALS

19 September 2010: New England Patriots helmet during the Jets 28-14 win over the Patriots at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey
Photographer: Rich Kane/Icon Sportswire

Former New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles running back Kevin Turner was diagnosed with amyotrophic later sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, over six years ago now. The disease, or at least originally thought, took his life in March when he died at age 46.

After researching Turner’s death though, it was discovered that the eight-year veteran of the NFL didn’t spend the final years of his life dying of ALS, but in fact it was a severe case of football-related chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. According to researchers at Boston University, the disease causes a motor neuron disease very similar to ALS, which caused the misdiagnosis.

“This is not ALS; this is CTE,’’ Dr. Ann McKee, the director of Boston University’s CTE Center said at a news conference on Thursday. Turner’s parents and the families of other former National Football League players who were diagnosed with CTE after their deaths were in attendance at the press conference.

Turner’s father, Raymond Turner, was obviously very distressed by the news and he pleaded to the NFL to do more to protect its players from brain damage.

“It’s a big-money thing, I realize that,’’ he said. “But they can make it safer.’’

The CTE Center has now diagnosed the disease in 91 deceased football players. Unfortunately CTE can only be diagnosed through postmortem brain autopsies; so several people have been misdiagnosed while still alive.

McKee noted that 17 of the 91 players diagnosed with CTE thus far were originally believed to have died of ALS first.

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