View Full Version : HOF DB Dave Duerson Committed Suicide: Medical Examiner

02-19-2011, 06:25 PM

Not much detail, but he must have suspected whatever his "problem" was, it was related to the football brain trauma.........he left a request that his brain be examined.

Former Chicago Bears player Dave Duerson died from a gunshot wound to the chest, according to the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner. 

His death has been ruled a suicide.

In a text message to loved ones, Duerson asked that his brain be left for NFL research, emphasizing he wanted the "left side" checked out in particular. 

Chris Nowinski, co-director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University School of Medicine, received a call from a friend of the Duerson family Thursday night. He made arrangements to have the brain prepped in time for research and sent to Boston University.

"I'm under the impression the brain will be studied."

Nowinski's research of Duerson's brain will take 3 to 6 months to determine the presence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), or what used to be known as "punch drunk."

"NFL players are at high risk for CTE," Nowinski said, adding 13 of the first 14 NFL brains they have studied have shown to be diseased with CTE.

There currently are 65 brains in the bank and more than 300 athletes in the Center's brain registry.

Friends and family members made no comments about medical issues Duerson may have been suffering from prior to his death.

"It's sad, it's shocking that it may have been on his mind" the moments before his death, Nowinsky said.

Ironically, Nowinski, a prep football player at Hersey High School in suburban Chicago, met Dave Duerson in 1996 when the former Bear presented Nowinsky with a National Football Foundation Scholarship.

"His family can be rest assured that it was an incredible selfless contribution to medical research."

Richard Dent entered the NFL in the same 1983 draft class as Duerson and remained close to his former teammate. Dent emphasized Duerson's concern for the game they loved. "He cared about the game, itself and the integrity of the game, and the future of the game."
Duerson was thinking about the future of the game and the future health of NFL players, even in his death.

02-19-2011, 06:45 PM
Man, that's the saddest thing I've heard in a good while. RIP DD.

I'm not even close to understanding that one. It seemed the man had his faculties. It makes me consider the irony of such a cowardly act done, but surely not because of, the future benefit of others. Brave consideration of others yet such selfishness all in one ball of wax.

02-20-2011, 08:07 AM
Man, that's the saddest thing I've heard in a good while. RIP DD.

I'm not even close to understanding that one. It seemed the man had his faculties. It makes me consider the irony of such a cowardly act done, but surely not because of, the future benefit of others. Brave consideration of others yet such selfishness all in one ball of wax.

That's humanity for ya. It's why God has yet to just send us all straight to Heaven or Hell. We're just..........luke warm.

02-20-2011, 08:11 PM
N.F.L. Players Shaken by Duerson’s Suicide Calculation
Published: February 20, 2011

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.

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 so that his brain could remain intact for similar examination.

This intent, strongly implied by text messages Duerson sent to family members soon before his death, has injected a new degree of fear in the minds of many football players and their families, according to interviews with them Sunday. To this point, the roughly 20 N.F.L. veterans found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy — several of whom committed suicide — died unaware of the disease clawing at their brains, how the protein deposits and damaged neurons contributed to their condition.

Duerson, 50, was the first player to die after implying that brain trauma experienced on the football field would be partly responsible for his death.

Retired and current players roundly noted on Sunday that they could not know what Duerson’s mind-set was and what other events in his life had contributed to his actions. Yet the gunshot from Duerson’s home in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., and the final wishes for his brain shook players around the nation.

“Oh my God — he might have been aware of what was happening to himself?” the former Giants running back Tiki Barber said when informed of the circumstances. After taking a moment to collect himself, Barber continued: “It feels like this was calculated and thought-out to some extent. It was almost with a purpose.”

Randy Cross, a former San Francisco 49ers lineman, said, “It ought to terrify anyone that’s played the game.”

Players who began their careers knowing the likely costs to their knees and shoulders are only now learning about the cognitive risks, too. After years of denying or discrediting evidence of football’s impact on the brain — from C.T.E. in deceased players to an increasing number of retirees found to have dementia or other memory-related disease — the N.F.L. has spent the last year addressing the issue, mostly through changes in concussion management and playing rules.

The N.F.L. has also donated $1 million to Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, the research group that will soon examine Duerson’s brain.

Duerson sent text messages to his family before he shot himself specifically requesting that his brain be examined for damage, two people aware of the messages said. Another person close to Duerson, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that Duerson had commented to him in recent months that he might have C.T.E., an incurable disease linked to depression, impaired impulse control and cognitive decline. Members of Duerson’s family declined an interview request through a family friend.

Duerson was a four-time Pro Bowl safety, primarily for the Bears. He was part of the 1985 team’s famed 46 defense that led the Bears to their only Super Bowl championship, and was a member of the Giants team that won the Super Bowl five years later. He retired in 1993.

For the past several years, Duerson served on the six-person panel that considers retired players’ claims through the league’s disability plan and the 88 Plan, a fund founded in 2007 to help defray families’ costs of caring for players with dementia. So Duerson would have been familiar with the stories of hundreds of retirees with mental issues ranging from impaired short-term memory to outright dementia.

“You know he’s been sitting in the disability meetings and the applications, so I’m sure he’s seen a lot of disability applications that have to do with brain injury,” said Ben Lynch, who played center for the 49ers from 1999 to 2002. “Having seen all those things come across in front of him, and for him to make the request about his brain, it’s something that must have been really on his mind. It’s unbelievable to me that this happened. The fact that he shot himself in chest, and not the head, it’s really eerie.”

Matt Birk, a center for the Baltimore Ravens, is one of 6 current N.F.L. players and 103 in all who have pledged to donate their brain to the Boston University center for analysis after their death. He said that Duerson’s requesting the same before shooting himself in a way punctuated the first era of the investigation.

“It’s almost now to the point that — not that it’s not tragic — but now it’s almost becoming common, some former players with some form of brain problems,” Birk said. “Is it something that I think about? Yeah, absolutely. There’s a little bit of, ‘Well, it’s not going to happen to me.’ ”

Duerson was successful in private food-related business in the decade after he retired, but he had encountered significant financial and family problems in recent years. In 2005, he resigned from the Notre Dame board of trustees after he was charged with pushing his wife, Alicia. The next year, he sold most of his company’s assets at auction. In 2007, the Duersons filed for divorce, and their home in Highland Park, Ill., went into foreclosure, according to The Chicago Sun-Times.

Duerson relocated to South Florida and through his union activities remained heavily involved with issues regarding former N.F.L. players. Last spring, he attended a gathering of veterans in Fort Lauderdale held by the Gay Culverhouse Players’ Outreach Program, an organization founded by Culverhouse, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers president, to help league retirees apply for medical and pension benefits. Mitchell Welch, the organization’s vice president, said that when discussion that day turned to the 88 Plan — the program for players with dementia — some veterans’ minds wandered, some appearing as if the topic of mental decline did not apply to them. Duerson walked to the front of the room and asked to say some words to the players, which Welch, in a telephone interview Sunday, said he now would never forget.

“I’m Dave Duerson,” Welch recalled Duerson saying. “Pay attention to what this guy’s telling you. Because it’s stuff you’re going to need to know.”