The parents of former Cincinnati Reds player Ryan Freel, who committed suicide Dec. 22, have agreed to have his brain tissue tested for a degenerative disease that has been found in athletes who sustained repeated head injuries during their careers, according to The New York Times.
It appears that Freel is the first MLB player whose brain will be studied by the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE. As part of its ongoing research, so far the center has found evidence of CTE in the brains of 33 deceased NFL players, in addition to several NHL players, according to The Times. Several of those athletes killed themselves, like Freel.
CTE’s symptoms include depression, memory loss and mood swings, issues that Freel had.
The Times’ story explained that Freel was not a typical pro-baseball player. His family estimated that he suffered about 15 concussions during his life, with 10 of them from baseball.
Because he was smaller and less talented than other MLB players, Freel felt obligated to play with as much heart and aggression as he could, according to The Times. That meant he was fearless when it came to chasing down balls. He would run into walls, dive for balls, collide with other players. He had a lot of head injuries in a sport that, unlike football, wasn’t known for head injuries.
Freel’s family suspects that he had CTE. And I’d wager that he did, too.