First former MLS player diagnosed with CTE

BU CTE Center researchers found Scott Vermillion had stage 2 CTE when he died at age 44

Contact: Julia Manning | 515-201-7199 |

(Boston) – The family of Scott Vermillion, a former professional Major League Soccer (MLS) player, is announcing today that Boston University CTE Center researchers diagnosed him with stage 2 (of 4) chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Vermillion died by an accidental overdose in December 2020 at the age of 44. His family is releasing the findings of his brain study through the Concussion Legacy Foundation (CLF) to help raise awareness of CTE in soccer.

“This disease destroys families, and not just football families,” said Dave Vermillion, Scott’s father. “We want others to realize this can happen to anyone who is exposed to repetitive head trauma because we didn’t even consider CTE when my son was struggling. He started withdrawing from his friends and family and we knew there was something going on, but we didn’t know what. We hope this will be a wakeup call to the soccer community to support former players and get them the help they need, so some good can come from this tragedy.”

While in his late 20s, Vermillion developed impulse control issues, aggression, depression, and anxiety which slowly worsened. He later developed apathy, substance abuse, social withdrawal, and memory loss.

“We learn more about CTE and the dangers of repetitive head trauma with every brain that is donated to our center,” said Dr. Ann McKee, chief of neuropathology for the VA Boston Healthcare System and director of the BU CTE Center and VA-BU-CLF/UNITE Brain Bank. “Mr. Vermillion has shown us that soccer players are at risk for CTE. We need to make every effort to identify players who are suffering and provide them compassionate care and appropriate medical support."

Vermillion started his professional career in 1998 with the Kansas City Wizards after being called up from the Project 40 team. That same year, Vermillion was also a defender for the U.S. Men’s National Team. He went on to play four seasons in the MLS, taking the field for D.C. United and the Colorado Rapids, along with Kansas City. He retired after suffering a serious ankle injury during a game. In all, Vermillion played 22 years of soccer, beginning at age 5.

“It is time for the global soccer community to have a real conversation about heading, especially in the youth game,” said Dr. Chris Nowinski, CLF co-founder and CEO. “A dementia crisis tied to repetitive heading has been discovered among professional soccer players in the United Kingdom, and the same revelation may not be far behind in the United States. We urgently need to investigate how far this crisis extends into amateur soccer and immediately put in place reforms to prevent CTE in the next generation.”

Scott Vermillion is the first former MLS player diagnosed with CTE. Dozens of other soccer players at various levels have also been studied at the Brain Bank, including semi-professional player Patrick Grange, the first American soccer player diagnosed with the disease in 2014, and former high school player Curtis Baushke.

The Vermillion family wants former players who may be struggling with suspected CTE symptoms to know help is available. The Concussion Legacy Foundation HelpLine provides free, personalized support to patients and families battling concussion or suspected CTE symptoms. Anyone who needs assistance can reach out at


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