A champion bull rider from British Columbia who died by suicide had a chronic brain condition, according to neurologists from the University of Washington who studied his brain.
Ty Pozzobon, 25, died in January. His family said they suspected his death was related to repeated head injuries and concussions he suffered during his rodeo career.
The family donated his brain to the University of Washington’s school of medicine neuropathology in Seattle, where doctors concluded Pozzobon had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.
Dr. C. Dirk Keene said CTE — which is only diagnosed post-mortem — has been found most commonly in professional and college football players, other contact sport athletes and military personnel.
The brains of 99 per cent of former National Football League players showed signs of a disease linked to repeated hits to the head that can lead to aggression and dementia, according to research published in a leading medical journal earlier this year.
Understanding of the condition is limited but Keene says people diagnosed with CTE are also frequently known to have suffered from mental health issues including depression and suicide.
Keene said more testing of Pozzobon’s brain tissue is expected to contribute to other studies on brain injuries that will ultimately improve the understanding of how and why CTE occurs — which was the family’s wish.
The Pozzobon family issued a statement, thanking the team at the University of Washington School of Medicine for their time and care, adding they hope the results help others.
“Ty’s passing has brought so much sorrow and pain to all, we hope everyone, specifically athletes understand that we need to educate each other with regards to head injuries, both short- and long-term impacts,” part of the statement reads.
“Ty’s family believes not to stop doing what you are passionate about but do it in a smarter way, and listen to both what the medical professionals tell you and what your body and mind are telling you.”
The family also encouraged others to donate their brains for research.
Pozzobon was married and lived 25 kilometres west of Merritt, B.C., and was well known in the Alberta bull-riding community.
He was the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) 2016 Canada champion, a three-time qualifier at the Canadian Finals Rodeo and a four-time PBR world finalist.
WATCH: A video tribute showing rodeo highlights of Ty Pozzobon.
— With files from Karen Bartko, Global News