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Is Brain Damage Responsible for Suicide of Another Ex-NFL Player?

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As a Notre Dame and New York Giants fan, I remember well the impressive career of safety Dave Duerson. Duerson played 11 years for the Bears and Giants and was on two Super Bowl winning teams. He was known as a big hitter.

Mr. Duerson had a successful life after football. He owned a food service business, Duerson Foods, owned a big home in Highland Park, Illinois, was married to his college sweetheart, raised a son who grew up to be a bank analyst in Chicago, and was a volunteer member of and NFL committee which reviewed disability claims. Duerson’s life started to unravel recently. His company was forced into receivership, his home went into foreclosure, he had a domestic dispute with his wife, who last year divorced him, the bad publicity caused him to resign from Notre Dame’s board, and he filed personal bankruptcy.

Duerson recently committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest. Before pulling the trigger, he texted his ex-wife asking her to donate his brain to the NFL’s brain bank. His suicide note mentioned that he’d been suffering from blurred vision and pain on the left side of hisbrain. Duerson’s ex-wife said that he’d also developed a hesitancy in putting words together and short-term memory loss that was getting progressively worse, both common symptoms of traumatic brain damage.

Over the next several months, doctors at Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy will autopsy Duerson’s brain and determine whehter he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease found posthumously in about 20 other retired NFL players, including a few whose depression over their cognitive deficits and dementia lead them to commit suicide.

Duerson’s family intends to spread his ashes on Notre Dame’s field and on Soldier Field. God Bless Dave Duerson.