February 21st, 2011
06:54 PM ET

Player's text: Send my brain to NFL research bank

The toll of repeated head blows and injuries loomed over football after the death last week of former NFL player, Dave Duerson.

Duerson, a former Chicago Bears safety who was a key member of the team's legendary defense,  was found dead Thursday in Florida.  He was 50.  Duerson shot himself in the chest, which kept his brain intact for examination for a debilitating brain injury called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, known as CTE.

His son, Tregg Duerson said, "There was a text message the night before that was a bizarre text message that he sent to my mother saying that he loved her and he loved my family and that to please get his brain to the NFL brain bank. My mother called me at work. We talked about it and it was bizarre text. You can't make sense of it."

They tried to reach him, but "no one could get in contact with him," Tregg Duerson said, with his voice trembling.

"When I'm getting up at 1:30 in the morning and I'm letting the police in, you know, the first thing on my mind is, 'I think they're about to tell me my father died.'"

It is unclear whether Duerson had the brain damage that can cause bizarre behavior and severe depression.  It is impossible to determine whether a person has CTE without examining his or her brain after death.

The NFL has been criticized for being too lax in dealing with the consequences of head blows. Last year, the league's new medical committee members  vowed to change that culture and step up efforts to prevent head injuries.

“We have no idea whether he had the disease,” said Dr. Robert Stern, a co-director of Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy.  The center has a brain donation registry for athletes to study effects of trauma on the brain and spinal cord.

BU's researchers are expected to examine Duerson’s brain. The process could take months.

Duerson never mentioned health problems or concerns, said his friend and former teammate, Emery Moorehead.

“It caught everybody off guard,” said Moorehead, about his friend’s death.  “Everybody saw him at the 25-year reunion," of the Super Bowl-winning 1985 Bears.

“Everyone saw him. He never mentioned anything. He was quite upbeat, speaking of getting married in April.  It just came out of the blue,” Moorehead said.

Duerson’s death left Moorehead to join other players who have previously expressed  worry about the punishment their bodies have endured from the repeated blows and grueling tackles.

“It makes me concerned,” Moorehead said.  You’re kind of conditioned to block with your head. You lead with your head.  After playing 20 years, there’s a concern.”

Athletes are increasingly aware of those risks, said BU's Stern.

“I hear frequently from former players,” he said.  “It’s a combination of joking and serious discussions of them being aware of their memory slipping or behavior changes that they're now becoming more and more concerned about because of awareness of CTE.”

CTE has also been called the punch-drunk syndrome and dementia pugilistica, because career boxers who have suffered repeated blows to the head have been known to develop the syndrome. It is believed largely to affect aging boxers and football players who have experienced crushing blows to their heads.

Many of the aging players struggle with brain injuries and appear as shells of former selves.

Former linebacker Fred McNeill, 58, virtually lost his memory after his glory days ended in the mid-'80s.  Former San Francisco 49ers lineman George Visger has to scrawl the minutiae of his daily life in yellow notebooks or else he forgets what he did minutes ago. His is another case of ex-NFL athletes struggling with memory loss, depression and sudden, frightening bouts of rage.

Recent studies suggest the reason may be blows to the brain the players suffered on the football field. CTE's effects are mainly neurobehavioral. These symptoms include poor decision-making, behavioral problems, failure at personal and business relationships, use of drugs and alcohol, depression and suicide.

Traces of the disease has been found in the brains of several late NFL football players, including John Grimsley, Mike Webster, Andre Waters, Justin Strzelczyk, Terry Long, Tom McHale and Chris Henry.

Grimsley died of an accidental gunshot wound to the chest. Webster, Long and Strzelczyk all died after long bouts of depression, while Waters committed suicide in 2006 at age 44. McHale was found dead last year of an apparent drug overdose. Henry died at age 26 after falling from a moving truck during a fight with his girlfriend.

Recent research shows that even high school and college players have accumulated brain damage.  The syndrome is believed to be caused by large accumulations of tau proteins in the brain that kill cells in the regions responsible for mood, emotion and executive functioning. Tau proteins are also found in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

Just because a player experiences several concussions throughout his career, it does not mean that the syndrome is inevitable.

“As often in the case of medicine, there is probably an underlying susceptibility, due to a set of genetic makeup that is in conjunction with multiple injuries that could lead to CTE,” said Dr. Robert Stevens, associate professor at Johns Hopkins University, who takes care of people with brain injuries.

Duerson’s death comes shortly before the NFL’s labor deal is set to expire March 3.  Players and team owners are in conflict over the split of billions of dollars of revenue and the number of regular season games.  The owners want to expand the season to 18 games from 16.

Dr. Bennet Omalu, neuropathologist at the Brain Injury Research Institute who was  first to describe CTE in an American football player, vociferously opposes extending the season.

“We should not sacrifice the lives of the players," he said.  "It reminds me of ancient Rome."

“This is an epidemic. I have not met a retired NFL player who is not having problems.”

soundoff (226 Responses)
  1. Buy Best Facebook Likes

    very interesting topic, great post.


    February 2, 2021 at 12:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. NncsZisse

    viagra. for sale generic viagra india online viagra payment paypal

    February 3, 2021 at 16:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. JbnbCrulk

    online canadian pharcharmy pharmacy online no prescription health canada drug database

    February 3, 2021 at 19:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Kuikseelt

    viagra jelly online buy viagra online viagra from canada with out a prescription

    February 4, 2021 at 10:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. FqhhEncox

    canadian pharmacy world aarp approved canadian online pharmacies buy prescription drugs canada

    February 4, 2021 at 12:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. FvfcZisse

    where to find viagra online paypal viagra uk pfizer viagra

    February 5, 2021 at 16:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. frolep rotrem

    Thank you for another informative site. Where else could I get that type of info written in such a perfect way? I have a project that I am just now working on, and I've been on the look out for such info.


    February 6, 2021 at 11:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. AhkdEncox

    online pharmacy without scripts humana online pharmacy pharmacy without dr prescriptions

    February 7, 2021 at 07:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. LbsxEncox

    canada drugs pharmacy online viagra pill prescription discount

    February 7, 2021 at 23:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. JbbvEncox

    canadian cialis discount drugs online pharmacy pharmacies in canada

    February 8, 2021 at 01:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. AqcfTeneseelt

    cialis 4 less best prices for generic cialis cialis online

    February 8, 2021 at 15:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Dr. Gőz Péter

    I really like your writing style, great info, appreciate it for posting :D. "Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid." by Feodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky.


    February 9, 2021 at 04:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. KbcxMile

    medical pharmacies reputable canadian mail order pharmacies pharmacy technician classes online free

    February 9, 2021 at 22:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. JbnvCrulk

    florida statutes payday loans payday loans wenatchee can i file bankruptcy on payday loans

    February 10, 2021 at 17:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. FqbbEncox

    check please payday loans payday advance georgia part 9 cash loans

    February 11, 2021 at 09:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Kbbfseelt

    discount viagra viagra for sale in usa overnight pharmacy 4u viagra

    February 11, 2021 at 12:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. NbnhZisse

    viagra tablet cost http://vigedon.com/ viagra for woman

    February 11, 2021 at 17:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. FbsgZisse

    cialis windsor canada pharmacy http://llecialisjaw.com/ cialis 10mg tablets

    February 13, 2021 at 11:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Sslprivateproxy

    you've got an ideal weblog right here! would you wish to make some invite posts on my weblog?


    February 15, 2021 at 00:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. LabxEncox

    cialis efectos secundarios cialis medication dosage cuba gooding jr for cialis

    February 15, 2021 at 13:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. AhbzEncox

    fast 1 hour payday loans payday loans new lenders uk cash advance deposit

    February 15, 2021 at 15:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. vreyro linomit

    This site is my breathing in, rattling good layout and perfect articles.


    February 15, 2021 at 16:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. JbbnEncox

    cialis przedwczesny si puГІ acquistare cialis senza ricetta medica cialis luststeigerung

    February 15, 2021 at 19:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. vreyrolinomit

    I truly enjoy reading on this site, it contains good content.


    February 15, 2021 at 20:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. 1500 USA-Visitors-Daily

    Create a profitable digital marketing strategy and plan: https://www.seoclerk.com/Virtual-Assistant/840836/I-will-create-a-profitable-digital-marketing-strategy-and-plan


    February 16, 2021 at 19:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. KvaxMile

    cash back refinance home loan payday text loans cash advance pineville ky

    February 17, 2021 at 07:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. AbcfTeneseelt

    viagra not working trial size viagra overnight viagrafreesamples

    February 17, 2021 at 09:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. SocialMedia Services2021

    Social network traffic Facebook likes Twitter Followers Instagram Followers and much more. Our Website: https://smmsupreme.com/


    February 19, 2021 at 14:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. NbmoZisse

    cialis great price pakistan cialis online doctor cialis

    February 26, 2021 at 19:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. FjjuZisse

    viagra before and after photos taking viagra without ed libido max vs viagra

    February 28, 2021 at 12:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. ClarkTauts

    tn85x 18g1l a9za

    March 1, 2021 at 01:19 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.