Phillip Adams' NFL concussions could have triggered CTE brain disease that played role in shooting, experts claim

PHILLIP Adams' concussions could have triggered a degenerative brain disease which led to a killing spree that left five people dead, an expert has claimed.

Adams fatally shot Dr Robert Lesslie, 70, his wife, Barbara, 69, and their two young grandchildren at the couple's home in South Carolina on Wednesday.

The York County Sheriff's Office confirmed that Adams, 32, who previously played for the 49ers, killed himself in a bedroom in his parents' home following the massacre.

Two harrowing 911 calls revealed the moment Adams killed the doctor and his family in a hail of bullets after breaking into their home.

An expert has now claimed the NFL star could have been left with lasting head trauma after suffering at least two concussions during games.

Dr Hallie Zwibel, the director of New York Institute of Technology’s Center for Sports Medicine, said the concussions could have led to a degenerative brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Zwibel said the disease might help explain what led Adams to open fire on Wednesday afternoon.

"He could have been taking hits all the time and only wound up with only one or two concussions, but the cumulative hits he has taken is so many that it could have made him develop a degenerative brain disease," he told the New York Post.

"It really affects people to an enormous degree in their ability to enjoy relationships and friendships, to really function in the world. They get very frustrated, understandably, with the deficits that they’re having."

Symptoms of the condition, which has no cure, include cognitive issues such as difficulty thinking, depression and suicidal thoughts.

"People become more impulsive and reckless in their behavior. They become emotionally unstable," Zwibel said.

Whether Adams suffered from CTE remains unclear for now as it can only be diagnosed posthumously from examining the brain, experts said.

Dr Jamie Ullman, a professor of neurosurgery at Hofstra's Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine, told The Post: "What we worry about is when we have people having repetitive injuries that they will develop some long-term effects in terms of cognition."

"Having known concussions and having certain issues. I think CTE should be considered," Ullman added.

It comes after Adams' father, Alonzo Adams, told WCNC that he believes his son became troubled after his time in the NFL.

"He's a good kid, I think the football messed him up," he said.

"I don't think he ever did anybody any harm," he added, before saying that Dr Lesslie used to treat him "a long time ago".

Adams had reportedly just had his meds taken away by Dr Lesslie before the killing spree.

South Carolina Rep Ralph Norman, who was a good friend of the doctor, told WBTV that the authorities believe the shootings occurred because Dr Lesslie had been treating Adams and stopped giving him medication.

"My understanding [is] he was treating him, and had, from my understanding, stopped giving him medicine, and that's what triggered the killings," Norman said.

Dr Lesslie was well known in the Rock Hill, South Carolina area for emergency medicine and ER work.

A biography page said he and his wife of 35 years raised four children.

Adams, who played for multiple teams in the NFL during five seasons, forced his way into the Lesslie home before killing the family.

The York County coroner’s office said Lesslie, and his wife Barbara were pronounced dead at the scene along with grandchildren Adah Lesslie, 9, and Noah Lesslie, 5.

The fifth victim, James Lewis, 38, from Gaston, was found dead outside the property. Authorities said he had been working at the home when he was shot.

York County Sheriff’s Office’s spokesperson Trent Faris said a sixth person, who was also outside, was hospitalized with "serious gunshot wounds." They are in critical condition.

The victim was identified by WBTV as father-of-three Robert Shook. His family said that he is fighting for his life and has received multiple surgeries.

Police said Adams used a .45 caliber weapon and was found with a single gunshot wound to the head. During the attack, a 9mm gun was also used.

Following the alleged incident, it was revealed that Adams had a rap sheet which included charges for carrying a concealed gun and assault.

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