Jun 29, 2022 - Sports

CTE discovered in former MLS player Scott Vermillion

Scott Vermillion playing for the Kansas City Wizards in 1999.
Scott Vermillion in action for the Kansas City Wizards in 1999. Photo: Matthew Ashton/Empics via Getty Images

Former MLS player Scott Vermillion, who died in 2020 at age 44 of alcohol and prescription drug poisoning, was posthumously diagnosed with CTE.

Why it matters: He's the first American professional soccer player with a public case of CTE, a disease far more common — at least publicly — in former football players.

The backdrop: Vermillion, a high school and college All-American from Kansas, played in MLS from 1998 to 2001 before retiring due to an ankle injury. In the decade before his death, he struggled with substance abuse and increasingly erratic behavior.

  • "When I met Scott, he was a vibrant, outgoing pro athlete, super fun," Cami Jones, Vermillion's ex-wife and mother of his two children, told NYT. "I watched him change really rapidly, and it was scary."
  • "Soccer is clearly a risk for CTE — not as much as football, but clearly a risk," said Ann McKee, the director of Boston University's CTE Center, which provided Vermillion's diagnosis.

State of play: This news will surely lead to more scrutiny and head injury prevention efforts in soccer, but it's not as if the sport has been blind to the issue: in 2015, U.S. Soccer banned headers for players under 11; in 2020, the FA implemented a similar ban.

  • Last year, leagues around the world experimented with additional "concussion substitutes" for players with potential brain injuries.
  • On Tuesday, the MLSPA called on the league to adopt the rule fully going forward in response to the Vermillion news.

The big picture: CTE entered the public consciousness around 2002, when Bennet Omalu identified it in the brain of deceased NFL player Mike Webster.

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