News Local

Family say Pozzobon was suffering from concussions, depression when he died

Meghan Potkins and Vicki Hall, Postmedia Network

Ty Pozzobon, aboard Bone Handle, competes in Round 1 of the Professional Bull Riders Monster Energy Invitational in New York's Madison Square Garden, Friday, Jan. 4, 2013. Canadian bull rider Pozzobon has died at age 25.No cause of death was given by Pro Rodeo Canada in a statement posted on its website, saying only that Pozzobon's death Monday was a "tragic loss."  (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Richard Drew)

Ty Pozzobon, aboard Bone Handle, competes in Round 1 of the Professional Bull Riders Monster Energy Invitational in New York's Madison Square Garden, Friday, Jan. 4, 2013. Canadian bull rider Pozzobon has died at age 25.No cause of death was given by Pro Rodeo Canada in a statement posted on its website, saying only that Pozzobon's death Monday was a "tragic loss." (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Richard Drew)

The family of a young bull rider who took his own life are taking comfort from the fact that Ty Pozzobon’s brain and medical history could one day help other athletes and families dealing with traumatic brain injury.

The 25-year-old was found dead at his Merritt, B.C., home Monday morning by his mother and a family friend in circumstances investigators are calling non-suspicious.

Family have since confirmed Pozzobon was suffering the effects of a number of concussions and was grappling with depression.

“It came as a shock to everybody simply because although the family knew he was suffering depression and anxiety, he was still moving forward day-to-day, making plans, making coffee dates, signing contracts,” said family friend Gail Joe, who was present when Pozzobon was found Monday.

“(Then) it all came tumbling down.”

Pozzobon was a decorated cowboy, the 2016 Professional Bull Riders Canada champion and four-time PBR world finalist. While he’d been suffering from the effects of a number of concussions in recent years, his family says he had been seeking medical treatment with a family doctor.

“It’s important that people know about the implications of head injuries as a result of concussions,” Ty’s mother, Leanne Pozzobon, said in a statement Tuesday.

At the time of his death, Ty was visiting family and his property in Merritt, with plans to return to Texas, where his wife lives and where he spent most of his time.

“He was very much moving forward but being drawn down by mental illness,” Joe said.

The family is taking solace in the fact information gleaned from an examination of his brain could help further awareness and understanding of concussions and brain injuries sustained by elite athletes.

Wednesday, a team of surgeons from Vancouver was on their way to the hospital in Merritt where Pozzobon’s body is being held.

“It touches the family so deeply and it’s something that we’re holding tightly to our hearts, that something good can come out of that as well,” Joe said.

Dr. Tandy Freeman, medical director for the Professional Bull Riders, told Postmedia he last evaluated Pozzobon for a concussion before the end of the 2014 season.

“This is a sad time for everyone who knows Ty or knew Ty,” Freeman said from Dallas Wednesday. “It’s a real tragedy. Everybody wishes there was something we knew or could have done, or in some way change what happened.

“I can’t speak to what was going on with Ty at this stage. The last that I saw Ty, he was the same guy I had been acquainted with for several years.”

Freeman acts as the on-site doctor for the Professional Bull Riders. He said concussions account for about 15 per cent of injuries suffered in the sport.

Joe says that like most rodeo athletes, Ty had been doing his best to stay as healthy as possible, resting between events and seeking care for his concussions.

“But at the same time, you don’t want to lose the momentum. I don’t think that in most cases, (athletes) could be 100 per cent healthy or recovered from any kind of injury, whether it be a physical injury or a concussion … the question is, when do you make that call to continue with your professional athlete career?”

She said a memorial service for Ty will be held in Merritt on Saturday.

“He was a leader. He was a hero. He was a mentor. There are so many young kids out there that just adored him.”