Ryan Freel is the first MLB player to be diagnosed with CTE - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Concussion disorder may be linked to death of Ryan Freel

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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) -

Doctors are now saying that a concussion disorder known as CTE may be linked to former Reds player Ryan Freel.

Freel signed with the Reds on Nov. 18, 2002 as a free agent and played for the Reds until 2008 when he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles.

Freel, 36, was found dead in his Jacksonville home on December 22, 2012. Authorities say Freel had committed suicide.

Doctors are now saying that what happened to Freel on the field may have severely changed his life off the field. Freel is the first MLB player to be diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE. It is a diagnosis that came in after his suicide and doctors say is related to repeated injuries to his brain.

"He was always the kind of guy who was 150 percent, running into walls, doing whatever it was going to take, and I think he made up for some of his athletic ability by over aggression and hustle," says Doctor Tim Kremchek, the Cincinnati Reds Medical Director.

Freel's CTE diagnosis came after he committed suicide. It's the kind of major health concern doctors and researchers say is only found during an autopsy. There is still a lot unknown about CTE.

"The other things are where the big question is. Right now, it's if you have a personality change, multiple concussions in life, and you have Tao protein, it's called CTE," explains Dr. Joseph Clark, a researcher for UC Health. Clark says even that doesn't always end in a correct diagnosis.

Meanwhile, Major League Baseball is the latest sport to take steps in the right direction.

"Coaches for years have been saying use peripheral vision," explains Clark. "We train peripheral vision. And when you get that better, you are more field aware and there is a decreased risk of a concussion."

Team doctor Tim Kremchek says he really didn't notice any personality changes from Freel. He also says he welcomes the MLB's ban on home-plate collisions. 

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