Brain damage was 'indisputable' in NFL's Dave Duerson

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Convinced he was losing his mind, former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest so that his brain could be examined for the effects

of head trauma he absorbed while playing football.

Duerson, 50, who was found Feb. 17 in his Sunny Isles Beach condo, had the same disease diagnosed in other deceased NFL players, doctors announced Monday in Boston.

Duerson had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive neurological disorder that caused him to be depressed, forgetful and impulsive. He also complained of headaches and

blurred vision in recent years.

“Dave Duerson had classic pathology of CTE and no evidence of any other disease,” said Dr. Ann McKee, a codirector of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at

Boston University’s School of Medicine.

“He had severe changes in areas that control judgment, inhibition, impulse control, mood and memory.

“It’s indisputable.”

McKee compared slides of Duerson’s brain tissue with those of other deceased athletes and pointed to the abundance of the telltale abnormal protein tau — which impairs and

kills brain cells — in the frontal and temporal lobes, the hippocampus and amygdala. CTE, caused by repetitive concussive and subconcussive blows to the head, leads to


beyond boxing

It was first described in 1928 in boxers and was called punch drunk syndrome but is now associated with football players. It is incurable and can be diagnosed only by autopsy.

McKee described Duerson’s case as “moderately advanced, stage 3 of 4.”

Duerson began playing football at age 8 in his hometown of Muncie, Ind. He played 11 seasons in the NFL and won Super Bowls with the 1985 Bears and 1990 New York Giants.

Among the notes he left inside his condo was a request to “Please, see that my brain is given to the NFL’s brain bank.”

Boston University’s CSTE, which has more than 70 brains of athletes and military veterans, is not run by the NFL but its research in collaboration with the Sports Legacy

Institute has been critical to changes in the league’s rules on tackling, formation of guidelines on concussions and consideration of medical claims by retired players.

Duerson himself served on the NFL Players Association disability benefits board that heard claims, and in 2007 he told Congress he was dubious of claims that cognitive

impairment was caused by football. He was also critical of the NFL’s harsher penalties for hard hits.

Duerson’s ex-wife and four children attended Monday’s news conference. His family wanted the diagnosis to be released publicly.

“We have been given the gift of closure,” said Duerson’s son, Tregg. “It is our hope that through this research, questions will be answered, questions that lead to a safer

game of football from Pop Warner to the NFL, better diagnostic tests and a cure.

“My father was a very accomplished man and with these accomplishments came many battles. It is my greatest hope that his death won’t be in vain, that his legacy will live on and others won’t have to suffer in this manner.”

In his post-NFL career, Duerson had been successful in the food services business, selling sausage to McDonald’s, then opening a meat-packaging plant. There was talk of him running for mayor of Chicago.

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