MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When Andrew Carroll, a standout Minnesota college hockey player, took his own life, his family wondered what they might have missed.
But test results show brain trauma from the sport Andrew loved likely played a role.
“He just loved hockey and everything with it,” said Sally Carroll, Andrew’s mother.
That love can likely be traced to a bond between brothers, as Andrew tried his best to keep up with his older brother, Chris.
“Not only did he have the passion but there was a lot of drive and work ethic, too,” Chris said.
As captain of the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs in the mid-2000s, Andrew’s infectious personality earned him countless friends on and off the ice.
As such, it left them with countless questions 14 months ago, when, at the age of 32, Andrew died by suicide.
“He was our sunshine,” Sally Carroll said.
Researchers at Boston University immediately asked to study his brain.
The diagnosis came last week: Andrew had Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease often found in athletes with a history of concussions.
In his playing days, Andrew had been clinically diagnosed with just a few concussions, but based on his brain pictures, researchers put that number closer to 20.
“There was that mentality…a concussion’s not a big deal. I can deal with it because it’s not a body part that’s broken,” Sally Carroll said.
Symptoms will sometimes appear in an athlete’s 20s or 30s as a patient struggles with impulse control and depression.
“In some ways, it really explains why his suicide happened or a reason why, because we had no reason why,” Sally Carroll said.
“At some point Andrew was dealing with some things in his head, kind of wrestling with some things and probably not knowing what it was,” Chris said.
The Carrolls hope by coming forward, Andrew’s story will lead others to find help.
Chris coaches the Blaine boys hockey team. He doesn’t want Andrew’s diagnosis to cause families involved in the sport to live in fear. But he does believe there should be more of a focus on mental health while players play the game and when they’re done with it.