Posted on December 1, 2012 · Posted in Brain Injury

The unspeakable events this morning involving Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, who apparently committed suicide in front his coach and GM after killing his girlfriend, made me think immediately of one thing: brain damage.

And I’m not the only person wondering about a possible link to any concussions Belcher may have sustained during his NFL career and the sad events of today. Sports columnist Rick Morrissey of  the Chicago Sun-Times raised the same issue in a column today, which was headlined “Jovan Belcher Tragedy Should Bring Renewed Scrutiny to NFL.”

Morrissey wondered why “anyone in his right mind” these days would play pro football. Maybe players are in their right mind when they make the decision to play, but not years later after brutal blows to the head begin to take their toll. There have already been a number of cases where retired NFL players have committed suicide, guys like Dave Duerson, who were found to have been suffering from progressive brain disease caused by hits to the head.

But in these instances players were taking their own lives, not murdering innocent people along the way. Belcher doesn’t fit the typical profile in that way.

Belcher, originally from Long Island, N.Y., had hit a rough patch and been arguing with his girlfriend, the mother of his baby girl. It’s true, people kill in the heat of passion during lovers’ spats. But Belcher’s actions after he killed his girlfriend are surreal.

He went to the Chiefs’ practice facility and fatally shot himself in front of general manager Scott Pioli and coach Romeo Crennel. That’s crazy.

“There’s not enough information out yet, but nothing else fits beyond mental illness or brain injury or some combination of the two,” Morrissey wrote.

He went on in his column, “It could be that Belcher suffered from a mental illness that had nothing to do with brain trauma. I say that every time a player or former player kills himself, and then we find out there was brain damage. But we’ve seen this before. And we’ll see it again.”

Unfortunately, I think Morrissey is right.

About the Author

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