Former Dallas Cowboy running back Tony Dorsett has been diagnosed with exhibiting signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative condition many scientists have attributed to head trauma and believe is linked to dementia and depression, doctors told ESPN's "Outside the Lines."
The Hall of Fame running back, who amassed more than 12,000 yards with the Cowboys, recently underwent brain scans and clinical evaluations along with two other former NFL players. All three were found to show signs of CTE, ESPN.com reports.
CTE is an abnormal buildup of a protein called tau that constricts brain cells in the portion of the brain that controls memory, emotion and other functions. Dorsett, who was informed of the news on Monday and appeared on ESPN's Dan LeBatard Is Highly Questionable show, confirmed that he had been tested at UCLA and received results: "I'm not going to say too much more about it … I'm trying to be proactive rather than reactive," ESPN.com reports.
Two weeks ago, Dorsett arrived in California and told "Outside the Lines" that he was seeking testing because he was experiencing memory loss, depression and thoughts of suicide.
Dorsett, now 59, said that during his flight from Dallas to Los Angeles for his testing at UCLA he had trouble remembering why he was aboard a plane. He struggled to remember where he was going.
CTE is a neurological disorder with no known cure. Dorsett said he wanted answers to explain his cognitive and emotional difficulties.
Dorsett told "Outside the Lines" that he gets lost while driving his two youngest daughters, ages 15 and 10, to their soccer and volleyball games, places he has been "going to for many, many, many years," he told the sports show. "Then I don't know how to get there," he said.
He also explained that he has emotional outbursts that scare his family.
"It's painful, man, for my daughters to say they're scared of me." After a long pause, he tearfully reiterated, "It's painful," ESPN.com reports.
Doctors have told Dorsett that he suffers from clinical depression. He admits to having suicidal thoughts.
"I've thought about crazy stuff, sort of like, 'Why do I need to continue going through this?' " he said. "I'm too smart of a person, I like to think, to take my life, but it's crossed my mind."
Dorsett played his last down more than 20 years ago and when he looks back on his playing career he can't even begin to count how many concussions he suffered, but he knows there were many.
"My quality of living has changed drastically, and it deteriorates every day," he told ESPN.com. "I want to know if this is something that has come about because of playing football," he said.
Read more at ESPN.com.