Late BMX legend Dave Mirra, who committed suicide in February, had CTE at the time of his death. According to University of Toronto neuropathologist Dr. Lili-Naz Hazrati, who spoke with ESPN The Magazine, Mirra was suffering from the same neurodegenerative disease as many former football and hockey players towards the end of his life. His diagnosis was confirmed by several neuropathologists that ESPN The Magazine spoke with for a long feature story on Mirra.
Mirra is the first action sports star to be linked to CTE. The protein deposits doctors identified in Mirra's brain were identical to those found in the brains of ex-football players. Dr. Hazrati told ESPN she believes it's "related to multiple concussions that happened years before."
After his death, Mirra's family made the decision to have his brain examined for CTE. His wife Lauren Mirra told ESPN The Magazine she saw "mood changes" in her husband over the final year of his life. "I started to notice changes in his mood," she said. "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. He was lost. I looked straight through him on a few occasions. And I was like, 'Where are you? Where are you? What is wrong?'"
She also revealed he had shown other symptoms related to CTE. "Fatigue, definitely, both physically and emotionally," she said. "And forgetfulness, moodiness. He would repeat conversations and topics to the point where it was obvious to the person he was talking to but not to him. He would dwell on a subject and not want to move on from it."
Mirra was a BMX icon, winning X Games medals every year except for one between 1995 and 2009. He retired from the sport in 2011. In addition to his BMX career, he also had a video game series, hosted a reality show on MTV, and competed in rallycross racing.
In June, Mirra will be inducted into the National BMX Hall of Fame in California.