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Did Dave Mirra have CTE? Officials wonder

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Friday, February 5, 2016, 8:36 PM

THURSDAY, JUNE 9, 2005 FILE PHOTOED REINKE/AP

Dave Mirra had “a pretty rugged sports career,” leading to some thought that he may have suffered from the effects of CTE.

The New York-born BMX champion found dead from a suspected suicide in North Carolina may have suffered from a sports-related brain injury linked to depression, his hometown mayor said Friday.

A leading brain injury pioneer played by actor Alec Baldwin in the movie “Concussion” spoke to the Daily News Friday and said the theory was a possibility.

“This is a young man — and I’ll call him a young man in his early 40s — that had a pretty rugged sports career and took a lot of injuries in his career,” Greenville Mayor Allen Thomas said at a press conference the morning after Dave Mirra took his life.

He said Mirra — who shot to fame winning more than a dozen X Games gold medals and hosting MTV’s “Real World/Road Rules Challenge” — achieved “glory” with his skill and daredevil stunts, but possibly at a price.

“You have to give pause and think and wonder, just as we hear about brain trauma in football and other sports and activities, whether that played a factor,” Thomas said.

“As far as I know, CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) has not been discovered in people who do BMX racing, so I don’t know in this case. But I would say anyone who’s had exposure to multiple head injuries or concussions or cranial impacts, they certainly would be at risk for developing brain injury and later CTE — and certainly depression is one of the symptoms linked with CTE,” Dr. Julian Bailes Jr. told The News Friday.

Chicago-based Bailes, who’s portrayed by Baldwin in the Will Smith-helmed movie about professional football, has been a neurological consultant to the NFL Players Association since the mid-1990s.

“It’s very hard to explain human behavior. But it’s certainly legitimate to raise the question in this case. Depression has been seen as a common thread in CTE and any brain injury from any endeavor,” he said.

Mirra, 41, didn’t leave a suicide note but had been “struggling” before he apparently shot himself in the head with a handgun while seated in his truck, Greenville Police Chief Mark Holtzman said Friday.

BMX LEGEND DAVE MIRRA DEAD IN APPARENT SUICIDE AT AGE 41

BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE. AP PROVIDES ACCESS TO THIS HANDOUT PHOTO TO BE USED SOLELY TO ILLUSTRATE NEWS REPORTING OR COMMENTARY ON THE FACTS OR EVENTS DEPICTED IN THIS IMAGE. THIS IMAGE MAY ONLY BE USED FOR 14 DAYS FROM TIME OF TRANSMISSION; NO ARCHIVING; NMelinda Sue Gordon/Columbia Pictures via AP

Alec Baldwin (l.) plays Dr. Julian Bailes and Will Smith is Dr. Bennet Omalu in a scene from “Concussion.” 

The native of Chittenango, N.Y., had been visiting with friends shortly before his death and had plans to meet up with them again later that day, officials said.

Thomas referenced the 2012 suicide of former NFL linebacker Tiaina Baul “Junior” Seau in his remarks Friday. Doctors concluded Seau suffered from CTE at the time of his death.

The mayor said the degenerative disease was known to lead to devastating “actions on impulses.”

“It really gives pause to think about one who put his life out there and his body out there for so many years,” he said. “I hope we’re able to solve that mystery. Like Junior Seau and so many others in the past. (I hope) that we can learn from this.”

Mirra’s manager released a statement asking for privacy for the exteme athlete’s widow and two young daughters.

“Dave’s wife and family are shocked and saddened by the loss of such a remarkable person whom they loved so deeply. Thank you for your kind thoughts and prayers and for respecting their privacy through this difficult time,” the statement said.

DENIS EMERY/EPA

There has not been any discovery of CTE in BMX racers, but it’s possible that it could have been a factor in the suicide of Dave Mirra.

In a Facebook post Thursday night, Thomas revealed he ran into Mirra outside local restaurant Atavola just two hours before the suicide.

They had a 20-minute conversation about an idea to get local kids more involved in cycling, he said.

“You never know, to what degree someone is hurting, on the inside,” Thomas said in his posting. “I wish I could’ve picked up on something – anything, go back to Dave and just put an arm around him. Say, ‘Look brother you have two beautiful girls who need you. Nothing is more important than that. We will get this figured out.'”

Thomas said while Mirra was internationally famous, to many in Greenville he was “just a dad, just a friend.”

“Dave Mirra was more than just a sports figure or someone that was recognized across the world for his gifts. He’s a loving member of this community, and that remains,” he said.

ndillon@nydailynews.com


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