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Phillip Adams, a former NFL cornerback who was accused of shooting six people to death before killing himself in April, had "unusually severe" chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease associated with head trauma and concussions.
The results of Adams' brain examination were announced Tuesday by Dr. Anne McKee, a neuropathologist who serves as director of Boston University's CTE Center. She compared Adams' brain to the brain of Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots player who took his own life in 2017 while serving a life sentence for murder. Hernandez was found to have Stage 3 CTE when his brain was examined after his death, with severe damage to the frontal lobes.
"Mr. Adams' CTE pathology was different than the other young NFL players with CTE," McKee said. "It was different in that it was unusually severe in both frontal lobes."
McKee diagnosed Adams with Stage 2 CTE. Symptoms of Stage 2 include depression, mood swings and short-term memory loss. A smaller percentage of people with Stage 2 can also experience impulsivity and suicidal thoughts.
Police say Adams, 32, shot and killed six people in Rock Hill, South Carolina on April 7. Local physician Robert Lesslie, his wife, Barbara, and two of their grandchildren, 9-year-old Adah Lesslie and 5-year-old Noah Lesslie, were all killed, as were two HVAC technicians working at the Lesslie home, James Lewis and Robert Shook. Police found Adams in the home with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Adams played for six different teams over six seasons in the NFL, including the San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders. He suffered multiple concussions during his career, including two over a three-game span in 2012.
A representative for Adams' family told WCNC that he had been "desperately seeking help" from the NFL, but because he had issues completing tasks and problems with his short-term memory, all his claims were denied.
Adams' sister Lauren told USA Today the day after the shooting deaths that her brother's mental health had been in steep decline for several years. More recently, he'd stopped dating, withdrawn from his family and friends and began neglecting his personal hygiene.