Greg Johnson — NHL veteran who committed suicide in 2019 — diagnosed with CTE, family says
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Greg Johnson — NHL veteran who committed suicide in 2019 — diagnosed with CTE, family says

Greg Johnson, the former NHL center and Nashville Predators captain who committed suicide in 2019 after being diagnosed with CTE, has been diagnosed, his family announced Wednesday through the Concussion Legacy Foundation.

CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease caused in part by repeated brain trauma, such as that sustained in contact sports or military combat, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). CTE can only be definitively diagnosed through autopsy of the brain after death.

Dr. Ann McKee, director of the Boston University CTE Center, who led NIH-funded research on the disease, diagnosed Johnson with CTE, according to a news release from the Concussion Legacy Foundation. McKee was unable to definitively determine the severity of Johnson’s CTE because of the manner of his death, according to the release.

A postmortem diagnosis of CTE should not be considered a cause of suicide, which is “complex and multifactorial,” the release noted, but traumatic brain injury (TBI) has been associated with suicide independently of CTE. The association between TBI, CTE and suicide has not been formally studied, the release said.

Johnson died at age 48 on July 7, 2019, in Rochester, Michigan. No suicide note was left behind, according to the Detroit News, which cited a Rochester police report. The Oakland County (Mich.) medical examiner declined to discuss the findings of an autopsy performed around the time of Johnson’s death, the Detroit News previously reported.

Johnson’s wife of 22 years, Kristin Johnson, said his CTE diagnosis “took her breath away.”

“Greg’s death shattered our world, and we never once considered that this disease was something he was struggling with,” Kristin said in a press release. “He had very few symptoms that we knew about, but he often talked about his concussions. I remember the exact moment he told me that his heart condition (that forced him) to retire was a blessing because he couldn’t take another blow. He knew that his hockey career had a profound effect on his brain.”

Johnson’s oldest daughter, Carson Johnson, said she “had no idea what CTE meant when (her) father took his own life.”

“Now that I understand that the impacts he sustained during his hockey career damaged his brain, I want all athletes to understand the risks and I want the NHL to start
“Recognizing her existence and doing more to protect her daughters so other daughters don’t have to lose their fathers,” Carson said in a statement.

Piper Johnson, Johnson’s youngest daughter, added: “He truly was the best father in the world and losing him to suicide was beyond anything we could have imagined. It was devastating, but we want to talk about it to help others struggling know they are not alone and that help is available.”

The Philadelphia Flyers selected Johnson in the second round of the 1989 NHL Entry Draft, but he was traded to the Detroit Red Wings in 1993 before landing in Philadelphia. He spent the next 12 seasons in the NHL playing for the Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks and Predators, finishing his career with 145 goals and 224 assists in 785 games.

Johnson, a native of Thunder Bay, Ontario, was also a member of the Canadian national team, winning a silver medal at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Norway. He won gold with Canada at the 1991 IIHF World Junior Championships.

Johnson played college ice hockey at the University of North Dakota from 1989 to 1993.

He retired in 2006 after a physical examination revealed he had an irregular heartbeat.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call or text the Suicide and Crisis Helpline on 988 or contact the Crisis Helpline by texting HOME to 741741.

Greg Johnson — NHL veteran who committed suicide in 2019 — diagnosed with CTE, family says

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