Washington State QB Tyler Hilinski Suffered From CTE When He Committed Suicide

By Fitzgerald Cecilio
on Jun 28, 2018 03:20 AM EDT
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The parents of Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski made a startling revelation about the death of their son. In interviews with The Today Show and Sports Illustrated, Mark and Kym Hillinski said that their son had chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE at the time of his death.

The 21-year-old Hilinski committed suicide in January. The backup quarterback failed to show up for practice on Jan. 16, prompting team officials to check him in his apartment, where his body was found with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

After his death, the Mayo Clinic asked permission from the family if it could conduct an autopsy on the quarterback's brain. When test results came back, it was discovered that Hilinski had CTE. A degenerative brain disease, CTE is believed to be caused by repetitive head trauma and is commonly found in football players.

Kim Hillinski told The Today Show that they were shocked after receiving the results showing that his son had CTE. Kim was saddened by the fact that the sport that his son loved might have contributed to his CTE diagnosis.

Mark Hilinski adds that he was shocked when the medical examiner told him that his son had the brain of a 65-year-old. Mark said the news was really hard to take and difficult to hear.

Hilinski Served As Backup QB

Hilinski served as Washington State's backup quarterback in 2016 and 2017. Last season, Hilinski tossed for 1,176 yards, seven touchdowns, and seven interceptions in eight games.

In September, Hillinski steered the Cougars to a 47-44 triple overtime comeback win over Boise State. In that game, Hilinski completed 25 of 33 passes for 240 yards, and three touchdowns with an interception.

Hilinski also made his mark in a losing effort against Arizona, where he threw for 509 yards and two touchdowns with four interceptions. With starter Luke Falk sidelined, Hilinski started in the Holiday Bowl against Michigan State on Dec. 28. In that game, Hilinski tossed for 272 yards and two touchdowns with an interception.

Hilinski Changed After Loss To Arizona

Tyler's parents told Sports Illustrated that they noticed a change in their son after the loss to Arizona. Tyler wasn't as responsive to texts and calls the rest of the season. They thought that Tyler was busy with his studies and in his preparation for the Holiday Bowl.

"Did football kill Tyler? I don't think so," Kym tells SI. "Did he get CTE from [playing] football? Probably. Was that the only thing that contributed to his death? I don't know."

After Tyler's death, his parents started the Hilinski's Hope Foundation. A nonprofit organization, the foundation aims to keep Tyler's memory alive and seek funding for programs that will help destigmatize mental illness.

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