An examination of the brain of wrestler Chris Benoit revealed evidence of extensive neurological damage at the time of his death. Benoit, a well-known professional wrestler, killed himself in June of this year after murdering his wife and child. At the request of Benoit's father, Dr, Julian Bailes, head of neurosurgery at a top American university, examined the brain and concluded that the extensive damage resembled what would be found in "an 85-year-old Alzheimer's patient's brain". Stating on American TV that the damage was "striking and maybe shocking", Dr. Bailes added that "we think we have great anatomical damage here from previous trauma. Whether it had a psychiatric or behavioral expression, we certainly think that's most likely."
While the most likely cause of the damage is from the numerous concussions that Benoit sustained during his wrestling career in Japan and America, he was also known to be a heavy steroid user. Dr Bailes added: "Our research has shown that three major concussions may be the threshold that serious later consequences may occur."
Michael Benoit, father of Chris, commented on the findings by stating that "The person that did this is not the man we know and love. Now the findings have come out and I've had the opportunity to talk to the doctors, we certainly have an understanding of what could have contributed to the tragedy that took place that day. "
It still remains unclear why dementia pugilistica (also known as punch-drunk syndrome) occurs in athletes who have sustained multiple concussions. Potential contributing factors include loss of neurons, brain tissue scarring, diffuse axonal injury, and buildup of senile plaques. In terms of etiology, it strongly resembles Alzheimer's disease in many aspects. While most commonly associated with professional boxers such as Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson, athletes in other sports including football and hockey have also been diagnosed.