OSKALOOSA, Iowa -- Initial autopsy reports confirmed that Tyler Sash died from an overdose of painkillers last September, but now his family has learned a new diagnosis that could have factored in their son’s early death.
“Our son struggled with something I don’t think he could put his finger on,” said Tyler’s mother, Barney Sash.
Many who were left searching for answers after the sudden death of the former Iowa Hawkeye football star now have a better answer.
Medical experts diagnosed the 27-year-old with CTE, a progressive degenerative disease caused by repetitive brain trauma.
“When you see pictures of your son's brain and someone else’s brain, and you see the damage it's done, there's no turning back,” Barney said.
Barney Sash said after Tyler’s death, she and her husband decided to donate his brain to science so that other parents wouldn’t have to go through what they are going through.
“We had so much fun, but now being on the other side of the coin, looking at it I think it's a serious discussion parents are going to have to have with their children,” she said.
Tyler suffered from at least five concussions in his football career, which included time with the New York Giants.
Experts say the amount of CTE they found was more than normal for someone his age, something his mother, Barney, attributes to his style of play.
“My son just played as hard as he could, all the time. And I think it got him into trouble,” Barney said.
It's led her to question the sport entirely.
“Football isn't life. It’s a game that we love and have a lot of passion for, but when it cuts your life short, it's not worth it."
She hopes his death can lead to awareness.
“I want justice for my son. I want people to understand why he made some decisions that he did or why he didn’t make the decisions he did. He wasn’t himself. I know that,” she said.
The Sash family has been told Tyler was the 98th athlete to have been diagnosed with CTE after his death.