Concussions to Blame for Athlete Suicides?

Former Chicago Bears’ safety Dave Duerson was found dead at his Florida home on Feb. 17. Recent news reports revealed that the father of four, had announced a recent marriage engagement and a short time before his death had filed for bankruptcy.

According to the Miami-Dade medical examiner’s office, Duerson died of a self-inflicted gunshot to the chest. The news of Duerson’s suicide has left many of his former teammates, family members, friends and fans completely shocked, as many are trying to understand, why?

Over the past few days, more details surrounding Duerson’s death have been revealed, including several reports that Duerson made a special request that his brain be donated to research; a possible explanation as to why he shot himself in the chest.

As questions continue to surface  about his suicide, experts have some speculation that Duerson may have been suffering from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE, the same disorder that was attributed to the 2006 suicide of Philadelphia Eagles, Andre Waters.

CTE is a degenerative brain disease with similarities to the behaviors of those with Alzheimer’s Disease, according to the site sportsmd.com. Rather than genetic causes, researchers have said that CTE is brought on by multiple brain injuries or concussions.

The disease,  originally called “dementia pugilistica”, or also known as “punch drunk” was first used to describe boxers conditions in 1928, according to the Sports Legacy Institute. However in 1996, CTE became the medical term for the disease, which is a result of high collision contact sports.

CTE has also been a possible factor in the deaths of other players  such as  It was reported that Duerson specifically requested in a text message to family members that the left side of his brain be used for research for the CTE disease.

Chris Nowinski, of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University School told AP that it had indeed been confirmed with a representative of Duerson’s family that his brain would be donated to the center.

Nowinski said 13 0f 14 NFL athletes that have been studied post-mortem have had the disease, including Bengals Chris Henry, who tragically died at age 26 in 2009 and Tampa Bay Bucaneers Tom McHale who died at age 45 in 2008 of a drug overdose.

And while there is no way to detect CTE in living atheletes, the 300 or so athletes who are enrolled in a study through the center will help researchers follow the progress, and understand signs and  patterns that lead to the illness. Those athletes have also agreed to donate their brains and spinal cords for study after they die.

Meanwhile, the NFL who has become more cautious in the their efforts to prevent concussions, will be taking an even closer look at safety measures.

To learn more about CTE or the research that is being conducted visit http://www.bu.edu/cste/