Encephalopathy is a brain disorder that alters the function or structure of the brain, leaving you confused and not acting like you normally do.
Encephalopathy can be caused by a number of different factors including bacterial and viral infections, exposure to toxic substances, autoimmune disorders, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain caused by infection or allergic reaction) and brain trauma.
There are several types of encephalopathy: glycine encephalopathy (which occurs mainly in children and can sometimes be inherited as an autosomal recessive disease), hepatic encephalopathy, Wernicke’s encephalopathy, hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (which occurs when your brain does not get enough oxygen), and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is one of the most common types of encephalopathy, and it’s best known for its links to high-impact sports like basketball, soccer, and handball.
According to a 2017 study conducted on the brains of deceased soccer players, CTE was present in 99% of NFL players, 88% of CFL (Canadian Football League) players, 64% of semi-professional players , 91% of college football players. , and 21% of secondary school footballers.
Over the past few years, we have also seen different actors and notable names in the entertainment industry share their experiences with brain disease.
Here are four celebrities who suffered from encephalopathy and went on to move on:
Famous American football player John Mackey (chronic traumatic encephalopathy)
John Mackey was a tight end for the Baltimore Colts and San Diego Chargers and was known for his size and speed. He was also the first president of the NFLPA (National Football League Players Association). Mackey died in 2011 after years of worsening frontotemporal dementia. An autopsy of BUSM revealed that he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy in his brain.
Larry Alphonso Johnson Jr. (chronic traumatic encephalopathy)
Larry Alphonso Johnson Jr. is a former NFL running back. Larry Johnson played college baseball for Penn State University and was a unanimous All-American, his on-field skills setting him apart (Johnson broke Penn State’s record for rushing yards in a game three times in 2002) . During his career, he played for the Miami Dolphins, Cincinnati Bengals, Kansas City Chief and Washington Redskins.
In 2017, Johnson reported having similar symptoms to deceased American football tight end Aaron Josef Hernandez. Johnson described having memory lapses, thoughts of committing violent acts, and suicidal thoughts.
Richie Barnett (ME/CFE)
Richie Barnett is a former professional rugby league player from New Zealand, England and Australia. Barnett began his career in the early 1990s, quickly rising to the top. He appeared in the 1992 Pacific Cup, 1995 World Cup and the 1996 and 1997 Super League World Nines tournaments before retiring in 2000. Barnett suffered a facial injury which led to ME/CFE .
Barnett is now largely recovered and working as a sports broadcaster and writer.
British actor and comedian Michael Crawford (myalgic encephalopathy)
In 2005, Michael Crawford discovered he had ME (myalgic encephalopathy). ME affects many body systems, including the brain, making it harder for people with ME to do everyday activities. In some cases, ME can confine you to bed.
Crawford contracted what he thought was the flu, but it turned out to be something more difficult to diagnose. After numerous consultations and body scans, Crawford was diagnosed with myalgic encephalopathy. He has lived with the disease since then and has been very vocal about raising ME/CFE awareness. Crawford was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2014 for his charitable and philanthropic services.
McClatchy’s editorial staff and editors were not involved in the creation of this content.