Autopsy of Phillip Adams, Ex-NFL Player Who Shot Six People, Will Include CTE Study

Adams fatally shot six people before turning the gun on himself last week in South Carolina

Former NFL defensive back Phillip Adams
Former NFL defensive back Phillip Adams played for the Raiders and other teams.
Maddie Meyer/Getty

The brain of ex-NFL player Phillip Adams, who fatally shot five people and injured a sixth before turning the gun on himself last week in South Carolina, will be tested for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease associated with repeated hits to the head.

York County coroner Sabrina Gast indicated it can take months to receive a diagnosis for CTE, which has been found in hundreds of former football players and is tied to mood disorders, memory issues and violent behavior, according to The New York Times.

“The autopsy of Mr. Adams is scheduled to be conducted at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. Routine forensic autopsies do not identify chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). We have contacted Boston University and they will be working with us to conduct a brain study to identify if Mr. Adams had CTE. We are unsure of the time frame for results at this time,” Gast said in a statement.

Adams, who played parts of six seasons for the 49ers, New England Patriots, Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks, New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons before retiring in 2015, did not participate in the physical and mental health programs that are easily accessible for ex-players, his agent Scott Casterline told The Associated Press .

“We encouraged him to explore all of his disability options and he wouldn’t do it,” Casterline said. “I knew he was hurting and missing football but he wouldn’t take health tips offered to him. He said he would but he wouldn’t. I felt he was lost without football, somewhat depressed.”

Taken in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL Draft by San Francisco out of South Carolina State University, 32-year-old Adams never seemed like the type of person who would have been able to carry out such a heinous act, according to his coach at Rock Hill High School.

“He was the role model that all coaches hoped they could coach,” Jim Montgomery said last week. “In 43 years, if you would’ve told me that this would have happened with Phillip Adams, I would’ve put him in the last five of the thousands of kids I coached. It’s just a sad day.”

Time will tell if CTE played a part in what occurred, but the former NFL player’s sister told USA Today her brother’s behavior had changed abruptly in recent years and that his mental health had “degraded fast and terribly bad.” 

“I know he had been applying for disability and he said they were making it hard for him. And toward the end he felt like they were trying to basically stiff him on money,” Lauren Adams said. “I think he got upset about that and that’s kind of where it started, with him kind of feeling like the whole world was against him.”

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