July 6, 2017 5:00 pm
Updated: July 7, 2017 7:28 pm

Brain autopsy of former BC Lions Rick Klassen shows extensive CTE

Sat, Dec 24: For years, former B.C. Lions defensive lineman Rick Klassen gave as good as he as got when it came to hits on the football field. But did that cause long term damage to his brain? That's what his family and researchers in Ontario are now trying to find out -- after his death earlier this month. Jennifer Palma has the story.


New autopsy research on the brain of former BC Lions player Rick Klassen show the 57-year-old had extensive chronic traumatic encephalopathy, known as CTE, caused by years of blows to the head in his playing days.

The defensive lineman died of cancer in 2016 and donated his brain to concussion research. He played for 10 years, the majority of it with the Lions.

READ MORE: Brain of late B.C. Lions star Rick Klassen to be studied by concussion researchers

His son Chad Klassen says knowing these results, he wishes his father and the CFL did the right thing when he took a hit to the head.

“Looking back, I wish trainers would have sat him down or forced him to miss a game. I know it’s something my dad would’ve hated because he just loved playing,” said Klassen.

Rick Klassen with his son Chad.

Courtesy of Chad Klassen

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“The trainers didn’t really have a sense of what concussions were fully and players like my dad wanted to keep playing. They didn’t want to lose their starting job or their spot on the roster.”

READ MORE: Former B.C. Lions standout Rick Klassen dies at 57 following battle with cancer

Klassen said the disease often led to his dad having erratic and violent behaviour.

“He had a hard time controlling his emotions. It certainly had an effect on us as far as my siblings and mom getting the brunt of his emotional tirades. It was difficult.”

He said doctors looking at his father’s brain described it as the equivalent of someone in their 60s or 80s.

He hopes the findings will continue to spawn more research on CTE’s effects.

READ MORE: Concussion researchers to study brain of former B.C. Lions star Rick Klassen

Recently, the B.C. Court of Appeal dismissed a concussion lawsuit against the league filed by former BC Lions receiver Arland Bruce.

But Bruce has said he has plans to take it to Canada’s highest court.

Last year, former CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge stirred controversy after claiming there was “no conclusive evidence” linking hits to the head and CTE.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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