The cause of Seahawks Hall-of-Fame defensive lineman Cortez Kennedy’s death was congestive heart failure from heart disease and his brain has been sent for study by the Boston University School of Medicine’s CTE research center, according to an autopsy report from Florida where he died last May.
The report released Tuesday morning by the Office of the Orange County Medical Examiner in Orlando to The News Tribune states 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.”
On May 23, 2017, one of the greatest players in the history of the Pacific Northwest died in what police that day said was an “unattended passing” at his home in a golf-course community in Orlando. The 1992 NFL defensive player of the year at defensive tackle had moved there in 2015, three years after his enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
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The autopsy found Kennedy had congestive heart failure and “a markedly enlarged heart.” The report notes Kennedy’s history of having to take insulin regularly to treat his diabetes. It also states doctors at Orlando Regional Medical Center examined Kennedy 13 days before his death, after he 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 from an accumulation of tau protein 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 career. He had no known history of concussions while playing from 1990-2000, all with the Seahawks.
Dennis Erickson, Kennedy’s coach at the University of Miami and then in Seattle, told the TNT’s Larry LaRue in January 2000 Kennedy was “one of the best players I’ve ever seen.”