An Australian brain specialist says the late Shane Tuck had the "worst case" of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) that he's ever seen.
The disturbing revelation makes the former Richmond star the third former AFL player to have suffered from the crippling condition linked to concussions and brain trauma.
AFL icon's Danny Frawley and Graham "Polly" Farmer were also revealed to be suffering from the degenerative condition.
CTE can only be diagnosed after a person's death.
The Australian Sports Brain Bank has confirmed that Tuck, who died in July last year at the age of 38 - had a particularly severe case of CTE.
Tuck faced a lengthy mental health battle before his death, with his family deciding to donate his brain to science.
On Saturday, neuropathologist professor Michael Buckland told The Age that Tuck's brain showed signs of severe stage three CTE.
“It’s the worst case I’ve seen so far,” professor Buckland said.
“It was actually quite shocking, the degree of disease he had.”
Professor Buckland said while education and safety measures around concussions are improving, it's scary that out of three known cases of CTE in the AFL, Tuck's is the worst.
“Those cases span three generations of players,” Professor Buckland said.
“What’s disturbing is that the worst case is the most recent, and also the youngest.”
Both Farmer (84) and Frawley (56) were older than Tuck when they died, with post-mortems uncovering levels of CTE in all three men.
Tuck battled mental health issues
The AFL community was left devastated by Tuck’s death last year, with details later emerging afterwards about his mental health struggles.
Tuck’s father and Hawthorn legend Michael opened up about his heartbreak at the time and and lifted the lid on his son’s battles.
“He was a big, strong kid and he just had a few issues and he couldn’t get rid of them and that was the only way out,” Michael told the Herald Sun.
“A lot of men think they’re alright and they’re actually not, and the best help they can get is telling people actually how bad they are, and not saying, ‘I’m alright, I’m alright’.
“It was bit like that (with Shane), he kept it all in because he was a tough, strong man. But you’ve got to show … it’s not a weakness, it’s just to express yourself with honesty and don’t try to cover up things.
“He didn’t mean anything by it, he just couldn’t admit he had a real bad problem.”
Herald Sun journalists Jon Ralph and Reece Homfray also detailed how Tuck struggled with his life away from sport.
After 174 games with the Tigers, Tuck retired in 2013 and tried his hand at boxing. But after that ended in 2017, Tuck “struggled to fill the void”.
Some of his former teammates at Goodwood Saints Football Club in Adelaide had reportedly been working to help him, with club president Craig Scott fearing Tuck would have felt isolated amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“A couple of people within the club were aware (of his battles) and were supporting him,” Scott said.
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