CTE is the obvious assumption whenever this happens.
I’d also like to offer a different yet equally troubling possibility. Players that make it to the NFL are typically players that have always been the best player on their team since Pee Wee.
Once their career is over and in a lot of cases they are dead broke with nothing to show for their years in the league it is incredibly stressful for these guys. They have no sense of self or purpose. They might not have a degree or anything to fall back on. Going from hero to zero after playing in front of + – 30K fans for so long is incredibly challenging.
There is no doubt this has a negative impact on ones mental health. Then you throw in the potential for CTE which could exacerbate these mental issues and you have a ticking time bomb.
CTE is definitely an issue but the NFL needs to do more for the mental wellbeing of their players and former players across the board.