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Suicide by Former NFL Player Linked to Brain Injuries

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Sports fans were shocked to learn last November that hard-hitting former Eagles safety, Andre Waters, committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. The New York Times reports today that Mr. Waters’s brain has been examined by Dr. Bennet Omalu, a leading forensic neuropathologist, who concluded that Mr. Waters sustained <strong>brain damage > from playing football which led to his depression and ultimate death.

Dr. Omalu is quoted as telling the Times that

brain trauma ‘is the significant contributory factor’ to Mr. Waters’s brain damage, ‘no matter how you look at it, distort it, bend it. It’s the significant forensic factor given the global scenario.’ He added that Mr. Waters’s brain tissue had degenerated into that of an 85-year-old man with similar characteristics as those of early-stage Alzheimer’s victims. He also stated that ‘if [Waters] had lived, within 10 or 15 years [he] would have been fully incapacitated.’

The Times further reported that studies of more than 2,500 former NFL players by the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes found that

cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s-like symptoms and depression rose proportionately with number of concussions they had sustained

. This finding is supported by other studies reported in the peer reviewed literature which conclude that once one suffers a brain injury, he or she is more susceptible than the average person to suffer permanent injury from successive concussions. Mr. Waters is the third former star in recent times who suffered a series of severe concussions and subsequently committed suicide. The sad stories of former Steelers great, Mike Webster and of Terry Long are also examples of the long-term devastating effects of brain trauma. The lesson for parents is that you should not permit medically ignorant coaches to convince you that it is safe for your child to go back into a football game, lacrosse game, or other sporting event after suffering a concussion until he or she has been cleared to play by a neurologist.