(WTNH)– Star BMX rider Dave Mirra, who killed himself in February, was found to have a brain disease linked to head trauma.
According to the New York Times, neuropathologists at the University of Toronto and the Canadian Concussion Center diagnosed Mirra with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CET) after examining his brain.
Mirra, who won 14 gold medals at the X Games and hosted an MTV game show, was found dead at age 41 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on February 4th. CNN reports that Mirra is the first extreme sports athlete to be diagnosed with CTE, which is more often diagnosed in football players and wrestlers.
Scientists believe that CTE is caused by “repeated, sub concussive, hits to the head” that shake the brain inside the skull. This can lead to a buildup of tau, an abnormal protein, that can take over part of the brain, according to CNN. The symptoms of CTE are similar to Alzheimer’s and include memory loss, mood swings and rage.
Mirra’s wife, Lauren, told ESPN that she started to notices those changes in Mirra before his death.
“And then it quickly started to get worse. He wasn’t able to be present in any situation or conversation, so it was hard to be in a relationship with him to any degree,” she said.
Mirra was involved in many crashes during his BMX career, including one where he told The Washington Post that he fell 16 feet straight to his head. He also broke his skull when he was hit by a car at age 19.
Lauren Mirra says the family plans to start a platform to bring awareness and research to CTE, a disease that currently can only be diagnosed after death.