Days after Ashley Massaro, a former WWE star and Survivor contestant, died suddenly at 39 in New York, her legal team alleges that she may have had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease that has been linked to head trauma.
Massaro, who died in an apparent suicide, had long suffered from depression — and had alleged that injuries she sustained during her wrestling career exacerbated her condition.
In 2016, Massaro and 60 other former pro wrestlers sued the WWE, claiming that they had suffered neurological injuries in the ring. After a federal judge dismissed the case, the plaintiffs filed an appeal, which is still ongoing.
PEOPLE has obtained an affidavit that Massaro filed as part of the case. In the document, Massaro claimed that she had sustained multiple concussions during her 4-year stint with the WWE. She alleged that the WWE did not treat her injuries correctly.
A spokesperson for the WWE did not return PEOPLE’s call for comment.
In a statement after Massaro’s death, the WWE shared condolences to her family and friends, saying they were “saddened to learn of [her] tragic death.”
An attorney for Massaro told the New York Post that Massaro’s brain may be donated to Dr. Bennet Omalu, a prominent doctor who researches brain injuries.
“It was Ashley’s wishes to donate her brain,” her lawyer, Konstantine Kyros, told the paper, adding that her family was “a little upset” about the idea of donating the organ.
CTE cannot be diagnosed in living subjects; it is only found during autopsies. Several former NFL players, including Aaron Hernandez and Junior Seau, were diagnosed with the disease after committing suicide.
Last Wednesday, a day before her death, Massaro tweeted that she had just responded to “a ton of fanmail so you guys should be receiving them soon! Love ya punx.”
Authorities were called to the wrestler’s home in Suffolk County on the following day. She was transported to a nearby hospital where she died on Thursday morning. An autopsy will be performed to determine the cause and manner of death, police told PEOPLE.
No funeral or memorial arrangements have been announced.
Speaking to PEOPLE in 2017, Massaro said, “I’ve been really fortunate to do a lot of different things. I’ve had a lot of adventures that most people don’t get an opportunity to do, and I’m really thankful for that.”
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