BOSTON (AP) - Dave Duerson, a former NFL player who committed suicide in February, had “moderately advanced” brain damage related to blows to the head, according to the researcher who made the diagnosis.
The findings were announced as part of an effort conducted by the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University’s School of Medicine. The CSTE Brain Bank has the brains of more than 70 athletes and military veterans, with football players comprising more than half of the athletes.
Duerson played safety in the NFL for 11 seasons, seven with the Chicago Bears, and was chosen for four Pro Bowls before retiring in 1993.
“Dave Duerson had classic pathology of CTE and no evidence of any other disease,” McKee said, “and he has severe involvement of all the (brain) structures that affect things like judgment, inhibition, impulse control, mood and memory.”
The body of Duerson, who was 50, was found in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., on Feb. 17. He left a note asking that his brain be given to the NFL’s Brain Bank. He shot himself in the chest, “presumably” to preserve his brain for study, said Chris Nowinski, co-director of the CSTE.
Duerson’s case was “moderately advanced,” McKee said. “The likelihood is that if he hadn’t had the CTE, he wouldn’t have developed those symptoms that he was experiencing at the end of his life and perhaps he wouldn’t have been compelled to end his life.”
“We have been given the gift of closure,” said his son, Tregg. “We accept this gift with great humility, as we are mindful of other families that have lost loved ones and still bear the burden of unanswered questions.”
Duerson had at least 10 concussions in his NFL career, according to his family, and lost consciousness during some. However, he never was admitted to a hospital for them, Stern said. But he said it’s also important to address hits to the head that don’t cause concussions.
CSTE, created in 2008, is a collaboration between the BU School of Medicine and the Sports Legacy Institute, headed by Nowinski. The center has been aggressively researching head trauma in sports, and has received a $1 million gift from the NFL, which it has pushed for better treatment of concussions.
“We hope these findings will contribute more to the understanding of CTE,” the NFL said in a statement. “Our Head, Neck and Spine Medical Committee will study today’s findings, and as a league we will continue to support the work of the scientists at the Boston University Center and elsewhere to address this issue in a forthright and effective way.”
Duerson was a third-round draft choice by the Bears out of Notre Dame in 1983. He played safety on the team that won the Super Bowl in the 1985 season. He moved to the New York Giants for one season in 1990, playing in another Super Bowl, then spent his last three NFL years with the Phoenix Cardinals.
Cantu said there is no treatment for CTE and research is being done to find ways to identify it in living people.