Former Detroit Lions running back Mel Farr, a first-round pick and two-time Pro Bowler, had Stage 3 chronic chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) at the time of his 2015 death, ESPN’s Outside the Lines reported Monday.
CTE is a progressive degenerative brain disease that can only be detected after someone has died. It has links to aggression, depression, memory loss and sometimes even dementia. Boston University’s School of Medicine has been testing deceased NFL players for the disease since 2008 in search of a link between concussions and serious effects later in life.
That’s what happened with Farr after the two-time Pro Bowl running back and 1967 first-round pick of the Lions died of a heart attack at his home in August 2015. He was 70 and suffering from undiagnosed hypertension.
His family donated his brain and spinal cord to Boston University for testing. Doctors determined he had a Stage 3 version of it, which means his ability to form new memories and control his emotion were further impaired. It is one stage below when a clinical diagnosis of dementia typically comes.
Farr’s daughter, Monet Bartell, told OTL that Farr had been losing memory for a while before his death. He told his family members he feared he had CTE, although his family told OTL they were surprised he reached Stage 3.
Before his death, Farr joined a class-action lawsuit against the NFL that is still pending. The suit featured Farr, brother Miller Farr, cousin Jerry LeVias and sons Mel Farr Jr. and Mike Farr, all of whom played in the NFL.
Farr spent his whole career with the Lions from 1967-1973. He reached the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 1967, when he ran for 860 yards and added 317 in receiving, and he received the same honor again in 1970, when he ran for nine touchdowns. He finished his seven-year career with 3,072 rushing yards and 26 rushing touchdowns.
Following his retirement, Farr opened a number of car dealerships in different states under the persona “Mel Farr Superstar.” His revenue topped $568.4 million, according to a 2002 report by Automative News, a figure that made his business the largest black-owned one in the nation.