The professional bull riding world lost its most promising athlete earlier this year when Ty Pozzobon committed suicide. Now, researchers from the University of Washington say the 25-year-old Canadian suffered from a chronic brain condition. And it may have contributed to Pozzobon’s death.
Most widely known as CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy causes anxiety, headaches, depression and severe mood swings. The condition comes from repeated head trauma, which Pozzobon likely experienced as a bull rider. In fact, he’s the first medically confirmed case of CTE in the sport.
According to Pozzobon’s wife Jayd, Ty suffered textbook symptoms of CTE months before his death. Friend Randy Quartieri told My San Antonio “he was going through hell” before taking his own life. Unfortunately, CTE diagnoses only come after death.
But prior to his death, Pozzobon also made the decision to donate his brain to science. “It’s an incredible gift,” Dr. C. Dirk Keene, who led the examination, says.
Just a few years ago, CTE caused a huge stir in the National Football League, which famously denies its role in the degenerative disease. Because football players routinely suffer blows to the head, they’re at a much higher likelihood for developing CTE. In fact, a massive study of the condition found CTE in 99% of deceased NFL players.
But now that PBR has its first confirmed case, athletes and fans look to the organization for its response. According to the Calgary Herald, PBR Canada is developing advanced protective equipment for athletes. It’s also finalizing a wellness program that focuses on mental health and wellbeing.
Pozzobon rose to fame in Canada and was a four-time world finalist in his young career. He spent time between Central Texas and his hometown of Merritt, British Columbia.
For Pozzobon’s family, the CTE confirmation brings clarity, but little comfort. “Ty’s passing has brought so much sorrow and pain to all,” the family wrote in a statement. “We hope everyone, specifically athletes, understand that we need to educate each other with regards to head injuries, both short and long-term impacts.”