Posted on April 21, 2012 · Posted in Brain Injury

Authorities have ruled that former National Football League player Ray Easterling’s death Thursday was a suicide. Unfortunately, it’s not really a surprise.

He’s just the latest in a string of former pro players who developed dementia-like symptoms in what have should been their golden years. They decided to pull a trigger instead of living a tortured existence.

Easterling is especially notable because he is one of more than a 1,000 ex-NFL players who have filed lawsuits across the country against the league. The suits allege that the NFL knew, hid or ignored evidence that repeated concussions out on the field would lead to long-term brain damage to players. The NFL denies all the allegations in these suits.

Easterling filed his lawsuit last summer. Last week in his home in Richmond, Va., the 62-year-old died of  a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His wife discovered his body, according to Yahoo! Sports. That must have been a memorable experience.

A former Atlanta Falcon, Easterling had been diagnosed with dementia in 2011, according to Yahoo! He suffered depression and memory loss.

His widow told Yahoo!, “He had been feeling more and more pain. He left like his brain was falling off.”

The other NFL suicides include former Chicago Bear Dave Duerson, former Pittsburgh Steeler Terry Long and ex-Philadelphia Eagle Andre Waters. They had all sustained head injuries during their pro careers.

Duerson shot himself in the chest, not the head, so that his brain could be sent to Boston University for examination for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). It’s a degenerative brain disease with symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s, and its been linked to repeated head injuries.

BU is home to a research study that is examining the brains of retired and ex-football and hockey players to see if they have CTE or other brain damage.

What do you think they will find if Easterling’s widow donates his brain to the study?

About the Author

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