Former Red Wings player who committed suicide was diagnosed with CTE
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Former Red Wings player who committed suicide was diagnosed with CTE

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Five years after his death, doctors diagnosed former Detroit Red Wings player Greg Johnson with chronic traumatic encephalopathycommonly referred to as CTE.

Johnson’s wife and daughters released the test results Wednesday through the Concussion Legacy Foundation.

“The diagnosis took my breath away,” Johnson’s wife, Kristin, said. he said in a statement“Greg’s death shattered our world and we never once considered that this disease was something he struggled with. He experienced very few symptoms that we knew about, but he often talked about his concussions.”

CTE is a progressive degenerative disease that is partly caused by repeated brain trauma. It has come into the spotlight as more has been learned about it and as more links have emerged between CTE and contact sports, including football and hockey.

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Johnson broke into the NHL with the Red Wings, playing in 177 games for Detroit over four seasons. He was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in January 1997, just months before the Red Wings won their first of two consecutive Stanley Cups.

The following season, he was traded to Chicago and selected by the Nashville Predators in the 1998 expansion draft. He played seven seasons for the Predators and was team captain from 2002 to 2006.

Johnson returned to Detroit this summer as a free agent but retired after tests revealed he had a heart condition.

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Kristin Johnson said Greg realized that the failures he endured as a hockey player had taken a toll on him.

“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 his hockey career had a profound effect on his brain,” Kristin Johnson said.

Greg Johnson died on July 7, 2019 from an apparent suicide by gunshot. He was 48 years old.

Former Red Wings player who committed suicide was diagnosed with CTEFormer Red Wings player who committed suicide was diagnosed with CTE

Nashville Predators captain Greg Johnson faces off against Pavel Datsyuk and his former team, the Detroit Red Wings. (Getty Images)

While suicidal tendencies aren’t known as a confirmed side effect of CTE, there are several links to the brain disease. According to CLF, a 2019 study found that a diagnosed concussion doubles a person’s risk of suicide.

“I had no idea what CTE was when my dad took his life,” Greg’s oldest daughter, Carson, said in a statement. “Now, understanding that the impacts he sustained during his hockey career damaged his brain, I want all athletes to understand the risk, and I want the NHL to start recognizing that it exists and do more to protect its players so other daughters don’t have to lose their fathers.”

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According to the CLF, 17 NHL players who were formally studied in the U.S. or Canada have been diagnosed with CTE, including Stan Mikita and former Red Wing Bob Probert. It has also been found in several amateur players and athletes from other sports, including NFL Hall of Famer Junior Seau; he also committed suicide.

Currently, CTE can only be diagnosed during an autopsy, so all diagnoses are made postmortem.

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