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The sad and simple truth

There is no getting around the sad and simple truth surrounding the death of Tyler Sash. The game he loved and the passion and intensity he played that game with throughout his life contributed to his death last fall at the age of 27. Sash was a spirited competitor, dishing out hits and taking them from the time he first ran onto the old high school field dug into a ravine in his hometown of Oskaloosa to the stadiums of the Big Ten and ultimately the NFL. His tragic death from what has been determined to be an accidental drug overdose at his home in Oskaloosa on Sept. 8 saddened Hawkeye fans, former teammates and coaches. Last night, they learned part of the reason behind the death of a player who had seemingly accomplished so much. According to a report in the New York Times, Sash's brain had been impacted by advanced stages of CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated trauma. Sash dealt with repeated concussions during his playing career, at least five before the New York Giants released him the one-time all-Big Ten defensive back in 2013. Two of those concussions took place in high school, one while he was playing at Iowa, according to the published report. Sash's family members told the New York Times that he was dealing with bouts of confusion and memory loss and that his behavior at times had become irregular. Sash's mother donated her son's brain to have it tested for CTE, and last week representatives of the Concussion Legacy Foundation and Boston University notified the family that CTE had been diagnosed and had advanced to a stage rarely seen in someone so young. Multiple studies on the impact of concussions and tests on potential ways to limit both their occurrence and their impact on the body when they do occur are underway across the country. Rules on the field have changed. Toughened targeting rules are in place. The way tackling is being taught has changed. Still, the risk remains. Football is a contact sport, as is soccer and hockey and at times, even baseball. At its core, the object for any defensive player on a football field is to tackle the person with the ball. Tyler Sash excelled at that part of the game. Sadly, that may have contributed to his much-too-soon demise. Some suggest that the sport he loved has a questionable future at best. His life, and his demise, only add to those questions. As others work to determine the answers and find solutions, the clock is ticking. That, too, is the sad and simple truth.

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