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.
“It’s indisputable” that Duerson had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a disorder linked to repeated brain trauma, Dr. Ann McKee said Monday.
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.
The other co-directors are McKee, Dr. Robert Cantu and Dr. Robert Stern.
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.”
Cantu said that such results normally are published first, but the Duerson family wanted them released earlier. Duerson’s former wife, daughter and three sons attended the news conference.
“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.