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Concussions. And Dave Duerson.

Feb 24, 2011

Holy cow! You’d think we never went into the off-season already. Or maybe we just had to wait until Super Bowl was over to get more media attention. But the coverage on concussions has become a loud theme everywhere, especially following the suicide of Dave Duerson last week. Duerson had left instructions with his family to ensure that his brain was donated to the Sports Legacy Institute to look for the presence and extent of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), the marker for dementia and other brain problems. We had published a critical post on the NFLPA’s three representatives on the 6-member Board for the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle Retired NFL Players Retirement Plan, of which Duerson was a long-standing member. (You can read that May 2010 post by clicking HERE.)
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The New York TimesAlan Schwarz had two recent articles focusing on Duerson’s death and CTE:

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N.F.L. Players Shaken by Duerson’s Suicide Message

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By ALAN SCHWARZ

Published: February 20, 2011

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When the former football player Andre Waters shot himself in the head in late 2006, the few recoverable pieces of brain tissue, which later showed the same degenerative disease previously associated only with boxers, made the health risks of football a national conversation.

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Football’s ramifications so concerned the former Chicago Bear Dave Duerson that, after deciding to kill himself last Thursday, he shot himself in the chest, apparently so that his brain could remain intact for similar examination.

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Read the rest of this article – click HERE.

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A Suicide, a Last Request, a Family’s Questions

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By ALAN SCHWARZ

Published: February 22, 2011

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SUNNY ISLES BEACH, Fla. — The words came up on Alicia Duerson’s cellphone as blithely as text messages typically do, but this one was different: her former husband, the former Chicago Bears star Dave Duerson, asked her to donate his brain for research.

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She texted back and heard nothing, then called their son, Tregg, who was just ending his workday as a bank analyst in Chicago. They called again and got voice mail.

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Read the rest of this article – click HERE.

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The New Yorker‘s Ben McGrath discusses the enlightening moments that the League has been experiencing about concussions:

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Does Football Have a Future?

The N.F.L. and the concussion crisis.

by Ben McGrath

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I still remember my first football game. It was 1983. I was six. My father took me to our local high school, in northern New Jersey, and we sat on the home team’s side, but it wasn’t long before my allegiance began to waver. The opponents, from a town called Passaic, were clearly superior—or, rather, they had a superior player whose simple talents were easy to identify in a game so complex and jumbled-seeming that even lifelong fans do not fully understand it. He wasn’t the biggest person on the field, and probably not the fastest, but he was strangely fast for a big person and unusually big for a fast person. He played both sides of the ball: running back and linebacker. He was also the kicker, and he returned punts. In my memory, he scored a touchdown, kicked a field goal, and sacked the quarterback for a safety. 12–0. As my father and I searched for his name in the program, a man seated a couple of rows in front of us spun around and said, “They call him Ironhead.” I was smitten.

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Read the rest of this article – click HERE.

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And here’s the LA Times Bill Dwyre‘s Duerson story:

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BILL DWYRE

Dave Duerson’s suicide could be a turning point for NFL

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As we ponder floating bonds and working construction cranes in our quest to bring the NFL to Los Angeles, we might also ponder the story of Dave Duerson.

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He is the former Chicago Bears safety, most notably with the 1985 Super Bowl champs, and a businessman who grew a food company into a multimillion-dollar success. He had 11 years in the NFL and was selected to four Pro Bowls.

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In other words, Duerson was more than just another guy.

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Read the rest of this article – click HERE.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Bill Dwyre wrote a new followup story (with some comments from several players including Dave at the end) that just came out this afternoon Feb. 25th:

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BILL DWYRE

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Will Dave Duerson’s tragic shot hit home?

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There is much more than can be said about the death of Dave Duerson. And so we will.

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It was only last week that the former NFL star put a gun to his heart and pulled the trigger. Oh, well. Death at an early age to a former pro football player has become a Page 10 item in the roundup of sports tidbits. Even suicide.
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As Roy S. Johnson wrote Wednesday on ESPN.com, “Sadly, the initial word of Duerson’s suicide was not wholly surprising. The list of NFLers who have taken their own lives for various reasons is not a short one.”

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Read the rest of the article – click HERE.

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7 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Priest Adler
    February 25th, 2011 at 6:09 am #

    Priest Adler

    A sad state of affairs when it comes down to this. Judgment on Dave Duerson about his actions should only be a positive. His family: my heart and prayers are with them. My only hope is that this leads to an answer about concussions so the effects that hamper too many former players and can also be used to safeguard current and future players. Duerson was a great player who will be remembered for his heroics on the field and his generosity off the field. May he rest in peace knowing he is helping others.

    Priest Adler
    Host of Behind the Facemask

  2. Dave Pear
    February 25th, 2011 at 7:33 am #

    Dave at Home

    In January of 2010 (only 1 year ago), at the Judiciary hearings held in Detroit, Michigan on concussions and brain injuries Chaired by Rep. John Conyers, NFL quack Dr. Ira “NO” Casson made the outrageous statement that “there was no scientific evidence that repeated blows to the head cause brain damage or early onset dementia.”

    I wonder: Does NFL Dr “NO” still stand by this quackery?

    Wasn’t “Dr. NO” under oath when he spoke this nonsense? And would this be a violation of his Hippocratic Oath as a doctor and a medical professional? Since 1994, “Dr. NO” was the head (pun intended) of the NFL’s MILD Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI) Committee. Recently, the NFL renamed this distinguished panel to “Head, Neck, Back and Spine Committee.” Does anyone think this tomfoolery will limit the League’s liability for not being truthful with their players/employees and the public (and everybody else)? Or is this part of the NFL privilege along with their “Antitrust Exemption”? After all, the public now owns the added privilege of paying the medical bills for old and injured NFL players when they qualify for Medicare because the NFL’s disability debacle is designed to deny valid medical claims. Even if the player is designated as 80% or greater disabled BY THE NFL’S OWN DOCTOR!

    Regards,
    Dave & Heidi Pear
    NFL 1975-1980
    Social Security Disability at the age of 51

  3. Greg Davis
    February 25th, 2011 at 7:37 am #

    Greg Davis

    Dave Duerson was my teammate and friend from Arizona and he often gave me very sage advice to me in my dealings with the Union as a player rep; he’s the second teammate from that Cardinals squad to have committed suicide. Andre Waters was my other teammate who fell prey.

    These people do not care and never will. I was denied disability from the League and they knew I had injuries when they signed me off on an exit physical back in ’97, recently had an MRI that showed the same torn shoulder that they were holding an MRI of from ’97. They still denied me – forget the stroke symptoms I am dealing with.

    Dave was a good man as was Andre; both will be greatly missed. I guess I’ll have to make another addition to my list of dead teammates. Surprisingly, I think I only have ONE dead owner that I worked for and I believe he drank or ate himself to death in his OLD age. Oh, what the hell – I think I will just go down to the local sports bar and have a Miller Lite, renew my NFL network season pass on the set and go make a few alterations to my Fantasy Football team while I get a little Madden ’98 time in on the ol’ Nintendo… I haven’t upgraded to X Box yet but look forward to spending some of my $1059.00 per month in pension payment for my 12 seasons of service to get one. I think it would only run 30-40% of my monthly to get set up. I think after that I will surf eBay for my old jersey, hoping I might get another chance to buy it. I couldn’t afford it last time but hope springs eternal! I would go see a game but for my family of four, it really is out of the financial realm of possibilities. It’s okay though; if I wait long enough, one of the teams I played for will have a reunion day or anniversary commemorating their greatness and I’ll get invited. But they only allow for one guest so I figure I could take my wife and leave the kids or take one of the kids and let the others wait for the next opportunity.

    Greg Davis
    Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, Arizona Cardinals
    Minnesota Vikings, San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders
    1987 – 1998

  4. Thomas Henderson
    February 25th, 2011 at 9:19 am #

    Hollywood Henderson

    I, too, had many concussions playing professional football. In 1981, I broke my neck in a collision on a tackle as a Miami Dolphin. Headaches and neck pain come and go. So far, I’m okay. With the recent death of Dave Duerson, I’m more concerned with my future now.

    As a recovering addict, I sometimes think any depression has to do with my past addictions. Don’t get me wrong. I’m doing fine. But there are days when I’m not sure. I called my long-time Doctor, Joseph Pursch, a few months ago and told him I had friends on depression medication and wondered if he thought I was depressed. He’s been my doctor for 27 years now. He interviewed me for a while and then concluded I was not depressed. He said “You’re retired and sometimes bored.” I accepted his diagnosis.

    Duerson’s death says volumes about a lot of things. While serving on the Disability Board, he turned down a lot of disabled football players for their benefits who suffered from what he possibly died from. Martyrdom is certainly not what he deserves. Irony or karma describes it best. It always puzzled me to see former players like Upshaw and Duerson not be completely committed to the health and welfare of their brothers.

    Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson
    1975 – 1982
    Dallas Cowboys (San Francisco 49′ers, Houston Oilers) Miami Dolphins

  5. H. Vindel
    February 25th, 2011 at 9:51 am #

    Great article. You hit the nail on the head. As a former high school player, we didn’t even know what the word concussion was when I was playing.

    I know this is a story about ex-NFL’ers but lots of young men play college and high school ball who still face the same risks. The story is bigger than just the NFL.

    This scares the bejeezus out of me and it should to anyone else who played tackle football. The human body and the brain were not made for this sport! I wish I had listened to my mother who begged me not to play.

    High school football coaches are always more concerned with their high school football careers than the long-term health and safety of the kids. That’s right, kids – they’re coaching.

    I still remember hearing things like, “Leave it all on the field”, “Sacrifice your body” and “You only get hurt if you go less than full speed” being told to kids.

    If I’m lucky enough to have kids of my own, there is NO WAY I am going to let them play any contact sports, especially football!

    Why are we the only country in the world (OK – Canada too) that plays this violent game? This is the beginning of the end of the sport – or at least its marginalization.

    For guys like me who played, the news coming out is getting scarier and scarier. The connection between having played football and quality of life later is huge. Now with CTE, people who are susceptible to it are getting dementia-like symptoms in their 30′s and 40′s. That’s not right.

    If we could ask any one of those poor men who passed away terribly – most by their own hand: If you had it to do all over again, would you play football?

    I think we know what the answer would be.

    RIP Dave Duerson.

    H. Vindel

  6. Dave Weisman
    February 27th, 2011 at 4:34 pm #

    Dr. David Weisman

    While we still don’t know the neuropathology results yet, everyone paying attention is expecting another case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Even if that’s not the neuropathology, football is simply an unsafe activity.

    For what it’s worth, condolences to his family.

    David Weisman, MD
    Abington Neurological Associates, Ltd.

  7. Mike Davis
    February 27th, 2011 at 5:03 pm #

    Mike Davis

    Dave,

    As usual, you said it clearly & plainly.

    Dr. No and his hippocratic oath… I wonder if he even took it. For sure, he took the oath of hypocrisy. And the oath of I’m-your-puppet-as-long-as-you-pay-me.

    Mike L. Davis
    Oakland Raiders
    1977 – 1987

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