Brain of former USC safety Kevin Ellison will be donated for CTE research

Yahoo Sports
Former NFL and USC safety Kevin Ellison died last week in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy, File)
Former NFL and USC safety Kevin Ellison died last week in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy, File)

The brain of Kevin Ellison, the former USC safety who died last week while walking the I-5 freeway in Southern California, will be donated to a lab to further the study of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a brain disease commonly suffered by football players.

Ellison’s mother, Judy Reisner, told the Daily Trojan that her son’s brain would be donated to Boston University’s CTE center. While the coroner hasn’t released a cause of death, Reisner said that Ellison, who was 31 when he died, had been hit by a car.

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Ellison had suffered from bouts of mental instability, and Reisner said that those issues may have been caused by CTE. In 2012, he was arrested and charged with arson after allegedly setting his bed on fire in his apartment. Following that arrest, Ellison spent time in a mental health facility and was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

According to Ellison’s brother Chris, Kevin hadn’t been taking care of himself or taking his medication, and was getting gradually worse. Reisner told the Daily Trojan that her son’s mental health issues might be why he had been walking on the freeway just before he died.

Ellison played for USC from 2005-2008, and won three Rose Bowls with the Trojans. He was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in 2009 and played a year in the NFL. He also spent some time playing for the Arena Football League. He was playing for the Seattle Shock in 2012 when he was charged with arson and subsequently cut from the team.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at or follow her on Twitter at @lizroscher.

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