It has been five months since the death of Washington State University quarterback Tyler Hilinski. On Tuesday morning, his parents spoke to Hoda Kotb on the Today Show to reveal new details about their son's passing.
The Hilinskis told Kotb the Mayo Clinic studied Tyler's brain and found evidence of CTE. CTE is a degenerative brain disease often found in athletes and veterans. Several studies have linked CTE to playing football.
Hilinski committed suicide in January 2018. The Hilinski family said doctors at the Mayo Clinic reached out to them asking to perform an autopsy following Tyler's death.
"It was a shock to get those results and find out that he had it, and to realize that this sport that he loved may have contributed to that diagnosis," said Kym Hilinski, Tyler's mother. "Did CTE kill Tyler? I don't think so. Did we get CTE from playing football? Probably. Was that the only thing that contribue to his death? I don't know."
"The medical examiner said he had the brain of a 65-year-old, which is really hard to take," Mark Hilinski, Tyler's father, told Kotb. "He was the sweetest, most outgoing kid. That was difficult to hear."
On Tuesday, Sports Illustrated published an article and mini-documentary about Tyler. Both pieces chronicle the Hilinski family's search for answers following the tragedy.
Since his death, the family started Hilinski's Hope, an organization that promotes awareness and education of mental health and wellness for student athletes.
In light of the news that Tyler's brain showed evidence of CTE, WSU outlined the mental health support they had in place prior to his suicide and the efforts they have taken since.
WSU will also observe Suicide Prevention Month in September. The Hilinski family has been invited to raise the Cougar flag prior to the season opener against San Jose State on September 8. WSU will also play a PSA at home games in 2018 that spotlights mental health and suicide prevention.
If you need someone to talk to, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The number is 1-800-273-8255. It's available 24 hours a day.