Still seeking answers as to why Alex Canchari took his own life last week at the age of 29, his family has sent his brain to Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) Center to ascertain whether or not the jockey was suffering from CTE, the brain condition linked to repeated head injuries and blows to the head. Several NFL players have committed suicide after suffering from CTE.
“We have sent Alex’s brain in to Boston University to see if there was CTE present,” Canchari’s sister Ashley told the TDN in an email. “It will take a few weeks, if not months, potentially to get back the results.”
“Personally, I think this is very likely,” Canchari told television station KMSP. “My brother told me multiple times, ‘I have hit my head so much and I’ve fallen so many times off of horses. I think there is something wrong.’”
Studies have shown that CTE can lead to a number of symptoms, including depression, aggressive behavior and suicidal thoughts. It can only be diagnosed posthumously. CTE is most often associated with NFL players. In February, researchers at the Boston University CTE Center reported they had found CTE in 92% of the brains of 376 deceased NFL players they had studied. The list of NFL players that suffered from CTE and committed suicide includes Aaron Hernandez, Dave Duerson, Junior Seau, Andre Watters, Phillip Adams and Jovan Belcher.
According to a 2019 story in the Louisville Courier-Journal, research shows that horse racing has the highest concussion rate of any sport. Concussions can lead to CTE. According to a report from the University of Kentucky’s Dr. Carl Mattacola released at the 2015 Jockey Club Welfare and Safety Summit, 8.6% of falls by jockeys during races from 2012 to 2015 resulted in concussions.
A 2017 report posted on a University of Kentucky website concluded: “At this time there is no data to document the incidence of CTE among jockeys, though anecdotal evidence exists; for example, the effects of Gwen Jocson’s repeated concussions forced her retirement from racing in 1999.”
A gofundme.com page has been started for Canchari’s fiancee Broke Klauser and Cancharci’s two children, Leon and Penelope. Another unborn child is due in August.
Klauser spoke to KMSP about Canchari’s struggles.
“He wasn’t really open about it,” she said. “But there were some signs that we could see that he was struggling. He was always very strong around me and the kids.”