"I am terrified" - NFL player retires aged 29 over fears of CTE

Eugene Monroe says he fears the degenerative brain disease, which can only be diagnosed after death and is commonly linked with NFL players

Eugene Monroe

Image: Lynne Sladky / AP/Press Association Images

Eugene Monroe has called time on his NFL career aged just 29, citing concern for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, as his reason for hanging up his boots.

Monroe, an offensive tackle with the Baltimore Ravens before he was released by the franchise in June, says he fears the degenerative brain disease and the effect that an 18-year career in American football has had on his body.

"My wife used to joke about the 'little things I forget,' but now she’s more concerned about things like me putting my phone in the freezer and then tearing up our house looking for it,” Monroe wrote in The Players Tribune.

"Things like that were just a joke around the house until this past winter, when my four-year-old daughter said, 'Daddy you don’t remember anything!' Since then, she’s said it a few more times.

"The last 18 years have been full of traumatic injuries to both my head and my body. I’m not complaining, just stating a fact. Has the damage to my brain already been done? Do I have CTE? I hope I don’t, but over 90% of the brains of former NFL players that have been examined showed signs of the disease. I am terrified.

"That’s why one of the first things I’m planning to do is to go to the doctor. I need to take stock of my current health, and I don’t want to miss a thing. I’m going to get brain and body imaging scans, mental health assessments — anything that might help me get a handle on the state of my body and my mind. My health is critical to the future of my family."

CTE occurs due to repetitive head trauma. These impacts can be sub-concussive (less than 60Gs of force), but the average impact of a collision in the NFL is 100Gs.

This trauma triggers progressive degeneration of the brain tissue, including the build-up of an abnormal protein called tau. These changes in the brain can begin months or years after the last brain trauma or end of active athletic involvement. 

The brain degeneration is associated with memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and, eventually, progressive dementia.