Robert Shook, an air conditioning installer was the last of seven people to die at the hands of Phillip Adams. He lived long enough to describe to police a chilling scene of Adams walking out of a nearby woods and quietly walking into the home of Dr. Robert Lesslie, firing two guns he was carrying, then walking out of the house and shooting Shook and his work partner James Lewis before walking quietly back into the woods again.
Dr. Lesslie, a beloved local emergency room physician, his wife, their two grandchildren and Lewis were killed. Adam apparently walked home, not far away, where he cared for his wheelchair-bound mother, and as police closed in, shot and killed himself. Shook died two days later.
As always seems to be the case, the first question everyone from neighbors to the news media was — why? Phillip Adams’ father had an answer — “football messed him up.”
“He was the role model that all coaches hoped they could coach,” said Joe Montgomery, who coached Adams in football at Rock Hill [South Carolina] High School, where he had launched the careers of numerous NFL players.
Adams was not just diligent and dedicated, he was good. A star defensive back in high school and at South Carolina State University. He was drafted in the seventh round by the San Francisco 49ers. and he made the team, only to suffer a broken ankle so devastating, it became one of those “bet you can’t look away” so-called highlights played again and again on TV.
After the injury, the 49ers cut him and Adams drifted from team to team, six in all in six years in the league. While playing for the Oakland Raiders, Adams suffered two concussions over three games, which, in retrospect, may have been even more consequential than his epic broken ankle.
Although his career lasted twice as long as the NFL average, to Adams, he had fallen short of expectations. As another NFL back from Rock Hill who trained with him, Charcandrick West, put it, “Every athlete tries to keep high expectations. He didn’t want to be known as the guy who bounced around.”
Once his NFL career ended, Phillip Adams seemed to family and friends to be at loose ends. Neighbors worried about a once-friendly man who now paced alone in his mother’s yard. His sister says, his worrisome behaviors suddenly got worse. “His mental health degraded fast and terribly bad.”
Symptoms of mental illness notwithstanding, the first answer being offered for the why question — why did Phillip Adams turn mass killer? — is CTE, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a brain disease associated with violent blows to the head. Phillip Adams’ brain has been sent for diagnosis to the CTE center at Boston University. With an athlete, especially a former professional football player, there is a tendency to seek a physical cause.
When military veterans show a similar pattern of symptoms include violent aggression and suicide the tendency has been to downplay physical causes in favor of diagnoses of a psychological disorder. Nobody sends the brains of former soldiers who committed suicide to BU for diagnosis. Maybe they should, because as our guest today Dr. Eugene Lipov has found in his research and treatment of patients, the overlap of symptoms between CTE and PTSD or as Dr. Libov calls it PTSI Post-Traumatic Stress Injury, may indicate an overlap of causes.
He is best known for his treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) using the stellate ganglion block (SGB).The injection-based technique “seems to ‘reboot’ the body’s sympathetic system and may help to reset a PTSD patient’s overreaction to stimuli — their ‘fight or flight‘ response—by resetting the sympathetic nervous system and central nervous system to the pre trauma state.
In 2016, the Pentagon approved funding for a study at three Army medical centers, citing SGB’s potential to be a huge game changer for many affected people with PTSD, whether from combat, sexual assault or other trauma. In 2017, the U.S. Army commissioned the first large-scale randomized trial of the procedure.
Published in 2019, an Army-funded study, conducted by RTI International, confirmed that SGB was more than two times as effective compared to a placebo in relieving PTSD symptoms. “Stellate ganglion block treatment warrants further study as a post-traumatic stress disorder treatment adjunct.”