Former Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Cortez Kennedy’s died of congestive heart failure, according to an autopsy report released Tuesday in Florida.
The report also said Kennedy’s brain was sent to the Boston University School of Medicine’s CTE research center.
The autopsy report by the Office of the Orange County Medical Examiner in Orlando, Florida, listed the official cause of Kennedy’s death at the age of 48 as “congestive heart failure, due to hypertensive heart disease, with organizing pneumonia and diabetes mellitus as contributing factors.”
Kennedy, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, died May 23, 2017 at his home in Orlando. He moved there in 2015, three years after his enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
The autopsy found Kennedy had “a markedly enlarged heart.” The report also noted Kennedy’s history of regularly taking insulin to treat his diabetes.
Doctors at the Orlando Regional Medical Center examined Kennedy 13 days before his death, the report said, after Kennedy complained of swelling in his lower extremities, difficulty breathing and a cough that had gone on for weeks.
The “manner” of his death is listed as natural.
“At the request of the family, the intact brain of the deceased was sent to Boston University School of Medicine Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center,” the autopsy states. “If the conclusion of the brain examination results in the cause or manner of death, this report will be amended.”
CTE is a brain disease in which tau protein accumulates around the brain’s blood vessels. Boston University researchers have been studying CTE found in athletes — notably deceased former NFL players — plus soldiers and others who suffered repeated concussions and other brain trauma. CTE often presents in those affected with dementia, violent mood changes and aggression.
Researchers have found links to CTE and past concussions in former NFL players. A Boston University-led study published last week suggested CTE may be caused by mere head injuries and hits to the head, short of diagnosed concussions.
Kennedy was a three-time All-Pro and eight-time Pro Bowl selection who missed just nine games in his 11-season NFL career. He had no known history of concussions while playing from 1990-2000, all with the Seahawks.