YORK, S.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – York County investigators are still trying to figure out why NFL player Phillip Adams murdered six people, including two little kids. They’re hoping a clue can be found in his brain.

During his NFL career, Adams suffered at least two concussions over the course of three games in 2012. Researchers at Boston University are working with the York County Coroner’s office to see if Adams had any brain damage. The autopsy is scheduled to be conducted at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

“Routine forensic autopsies do not identify [C]hronic [T]raumatic [E]ncephalopathy (CTE),” said York County Coroner Sabrina Gast said in a statement Friday. “We have contacted Boston University and they will be working with us to conduct a brain study to identify if Mr. Adams had CTE. We are unsure of the time frame for the results at this time.”

The coroner’s office did not respond to a follow-up request for comment Monday.

CTE has been linked to violent mood swings and cognitive decline, including dementia.


Dr. Christopher Nowinski found success inside the squared circle but a series of concussions forced him to tap out in 2007.

“I had headaches chronically for well over a decade,” said Nowinski. “Concussions actually ended my career as a professional wrestler with WWE. I got hit too many times to the head, developed permanent symptoms and sort of began a quest to understand why I couldn’t get better. ”

The former Harvard football player-turned professional wrestler-turned neuroscientist started the Concussion Legacy Foundation. For nearly 15 years he’s studied the effects of traumatic brain injuries on athletes, military veterans and abuse victims.

“Repeated hits to the head over time can cause degenerative brain disease called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE,” said Nowinski, “which can cause problems with thinking behavior mood and eventually lead to dementia.”

A 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at the brains of 111 former NFL players. All but one had CTE. This rare degenerative brain disease can change who a person is, Nowinski said. He’s researching whether it leads to aggressive and violent behavior.

“All behavior is generated from the brain,” he said. “And if we do find the brain is damaged, it might help us understand inappropriate, or in this case, horrible behavior.”

Whether or not the gunman in the York County mass shooting had CTE remains to be seen. Nowinski cautions the brain study won’t explain the motive behind last week’s killings, but it could begin to provide a clue.

“There’s no simple answers here,” he said. “The brain study is not going to explain it 100 percent of the time. But, if there’s brain damage, it might give a window into why somebody who had behaved appropriately for their entire life, as far as we know, change so dramatically.”

There is no timeframe on how long it will take to study Adams’ brain.

Last week, a neighbor who has known Adams for more than 30 years, described him as a “great guy” and said there were no warning signs. Adams’ sister told USA Today that his mental health had degraded “fast and terribly bad” and he was fighting a disability claim with the NFL.

The NFL previously agreed to pay $1 billion to retired players who claimed it misled them about the dangers of playing football.

Boston University declined to comment on its involvement in the study.

“It is our policy that we cannot confirm any past, present or potential cases without consent from the next of kin,” said BU associate director of media relations, Gin DiGravio.