O.J. Murdock’s family has done the right thing: They’ve donated his brain to scientists who are studying whether concussions lead to depression and long-term mental degeneration in football players.
Murdock, a Tennessee Titan, on July 30 joined a growing list of NFL players who have committed suicide. He shot himself in the head while sitting in a car parked near the field where he played, at Middletown High School, as a youth. He died at Tampa General Hospital.
Murdock’s mom, Jamesena Murdock, was contacted by Boston University after his death, according to the Tampa Tribune. A well-publicized study is under way at the school, where the brain tissue of dozens of deceased athletes, mostly ex-NFL players, is being analyzed.
Researchers are trying to find hard evidence that repeated head injuries can cause chronic traumatic encephalopathy, CTE. It is a degenerative brain disease that has many of the symptoms of dementia, including memory loss, cognitive problems, aggression and depression.
Jamesena told the Tampa Tribune that donating Murdock’s brain to BU was “the right thing to do.”
The brain tissue of former San Diego NFL player Junior Seau, who committed suicide in May, and former Chicago Bear Dave Duerson, who killed himself in February 2011, was also sent to Boston for study. Scientists found that Duerson had CTE.
Murdock didn’t appear to have a long history of head injuries. According to the Tampa Tribune, Murdock’s coach at Fort Hays State in Kansas only recalled the youth suffering one mild concussion, in February 2011.
NBCSports.com noted that Murdock had an Achilles injury last year and never got to play in an NFL game after being signed by the Titans. Maybe he was depressed about that. Maybe something going on his brain made him pull the trigger.
“If the researchers find CTE in Murdock’s brain, it could indicate that such brain damage can be a byproduct of playing college, high school and youth football, and that players may already have brain damage before they reach the NFL,” NBCSports.com said.
That would be a frightening discovery, but an important one.