Former Detroit Lions safety Tommy Vaughn was diagnosed with advanced stage 3 chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) following his death at the age of 77 last year, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
After he passed away in July, the Vaughn Family donated Tommy’s brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation’s Brain Bank. Thorough collaborative research by the Boston University’s School of Medicine and the Department of Veterans Affairs determined the diagnosis.
CTE, which can only be diagnosed post-mortem, is a progressive brain disease caused by repeated traumatic brain injuries. As detection of the disease improves, it’s becoming more and more commonly found in former football players.
Kristal Vaughn, Tommy’s daughter, recalled several occasions when her father would hit her and her mother — only to forget that it ever happened just a few hours later. She said this diagnosis helped to explain these and other “erratic” behaviors in his final years.
“Honestly, as soon as I hung up with the doctor and he gave me the report, I just fell to my knees and started crying even more cause I truly understand my daddy even more,” Kristal said. “And why he’s the way he was.
“I didn’t realize how bad he was. I thought it was mostly Alzheimer’s and the doc said he did not have Alzheimer’s at all. It was all brain damage.”
Vaughn suffered plenty of head injuries during his time with Detroit from 1965-71 — some more serious than others. Kristal said her father was knocked completely unconscious at least three times during his playing career.
Vaughn is the sixth public brain donation from a former Lions player — three of which have come back positive for CTE. Results are still pending for one more.
Hopefully this news will help bring some more attention to improving safety precautions at all levels of the sport.