Adams played in 78 NFL games over five seasons for six teams. He joined the 49ers in 2010 as a seventh-round draft pick out of South Carolina State, and though he rarely started, he went on to play for New England, Seattle, Oakland and the Jets before finishing his career with the Falcons in 2015.
As a rookie late in the 2010 season, Adams suffered a severe ankle injury that required surgery that included several screws being inserted into the leg. He never played for the 49ers again, getting released just before the 2011 season began. Later, with the Raiders, he had 2 concussions over 3 games in 2012.
Whether his concussions are related to this horrific incident isn’t immediately clear. Adams would not have been eligible for testing as part of a broad settlement between the league and its former players over such injuries, because he hadn’t retired by 2014.
Adams’ father told a Charlotte television station that he blamed football for problems that may have led his son to commit this act of violence.
“I can say he’s a good kid — he was a good kid, and I think the football messed him up,” Alonzo Adams told WCNC-TV. “He didn’t talk much and he didn’t bother nobody.”
That phrase, “football messed him” is a phrase many are now saying regarding the broad number of suicides happening among football players recently. They are claiming it’s caused by a condition called CTE.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is the term used to describe brain degeneration likely caused by repeated head traumas. CTE is a diagnosis made only at autopsy by studying sections of the brain.
Experts are still trying to understand how repeated head traumas — including how many head injuries and the severity of those injuries — and other factors might contribute to the changes in the brain that result in CTE.
CTE has been found in the brains of people who played football and other contact sports, including boxing. It may also occur in military personnel who were exposed to explosive blasts. Some signs and symptoms of CTE are thought to include difficulties with thinking (cognition), physical problems, emotions and other behaviors. It’s thought that these develop years to decades after head trauma occurs.
Since the brain doesn’t show pain like an injury anywhere else on the body, the damage of CTE often is done without signs of trouble. Similar to smoking or exposure to cancer-causing substances, the symptoms show much later than when damage is occurring.
The biggest factor for developing CTE seems to be the length of time exposed to repetitive impacts. Science is showing that earlier such impacts start, and the more hits endured, the greater the chances of developing CTE. Children are particularly vulnerable because their brains are still developing.
The brain of a person with CTE gradually deteriorates, and tau proteins begin to become defective and interfere with neuron function.
A study released in 2018 also found CTE indications in brain tissue from blast-exposed military personnel. That study noted that of the troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, a total of 460,000 veterans could be at risk for CTE. Many scientists believe that many of the veterans being diagnosed with the symptoms of PTSD may actually have CTE. Twenty veterans a day die from suicide.