Posted on February 20, 2011 · Posted in Brain Injury

The life of another former pro football player, who suspected he was suffering from long-term brain damage, has ended in tragedy. In this instance it was Dave Duerson, who committed suicide last Thursday by shooting himself in the chest. He was only 50.

In its obituary,  The New York Times described Duerson as a safety “who won Super Bowls with the Chicago Bears and the Giants.” When The Times did its obit, it merely said he had died in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla. It was The Chicago Tribune that first revealed that Duerson had taken his own life.

On Sunday The Times reported that before Duerson killed himself Thursday, he had texted family members to tell them he wanted his brain tissue to be tested for degenerative brain damage. The disease in question is chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which has been discovered in the brains of several deceased, retired NFL players. It is a condition that can cause depression, dementia and even spark suicides.

As The Times pointed out, ex-Philadelphia Eagles player Andre Waters committed suicide, and his brain tissue indicated that he had CTE. And evidence of CTE was also found in the brain of Owen Thomas, a University of Pennsylvania football player who also killed himself.

Duerson told his family that he wanted his brain donated to the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University. That research facility is testing the brain tissue of deceased NFL players, looking for evidence of CTE, which has been linked to the repeated concussions and tramatic injury that players take to the head.

So far, the brains of 13 of the 14 deceased players examined by the center have had CTE, according to The Times.

Duerson had gone through some hard times in recent years. A graduate of Notre Dame, he had to resign from its board after he was charged with pushing his wife, The Times said in his obit. He started a successful business, Brooks Sausage Co., sold it and then launched a second company, Duerson Foods.

But Duerson wound up selling most of Duerson Foods’  assets at auction. He got a divorce, and his home in Highland Park, Ill., went into foreclosure.

His death is heart-breaking. And to his credit, one of his last acts was donating his brain so that scientists can learn more about the disease that probably contributed to his decision to kill himself.

About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447