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Do NFL Players Suffer Long-Term Effects of Brain Injury?

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The NFL, head injury and depression again collided, with the news that former Steelers lineman, Terry Long, had committed suicide by drinking antifreeze. Initially, Medical Examiner, Dr. Simon Wecht listed the death as accidental. Thereafter, he amended his report to reflect that the death was by suicide.

Dr. Bennett Omalu, a neuropathologist at the medical examiners office, further stated that he believes that prior head injuries suffered by Mr. Long, as a football player, “…had contributed to his condition of depression.” It was his belief that this depression contributed to the Long suicide.

Not surprisingly, Dr. Joseph Marone, the Pittsburgh Steelers neurosurgeon, stated that “I think it is fallacious reasoning, and I don’t think its plausible at all to go back and say that “Long” was depressed from playing in the NFL that lead to his death, fourteen years later. I think that is purely speculative.”

It is genetically documented that Mr. Long had a concussion in 1987 after colliding with an opposing player and then another in 1990 from an auto accident. He played football from a period of 1984-1991.

Dr. Marone “company line” opinion on behalf of the NFL, is that if these former NFL players all exhibit symptoms such as Terry Long was somehow related to their playing days in the NFL, then unfortunately, the NFL could be potentially responsible under a workers compensation claim.

Our practice handles injury resulting from brain injury and, we regularly see symptoms of depression, short term memory loss, anxiety, mood swings, and social skill erosion, that result after a concussion from a car accident. For this reason, it does not seem surprising that there are more medical experts outside of the NFL that are beginning to recognize head injury symptoms to these former players. It appears that the only medical experts that call such injury “speculative” are somehow associated with NFL teams.