Last text message: 'Please, see that my brain is given to the NFL's brain bank'

What happens to the brains of football players at a Boston center?

Chicago Bears football player Dave Duerson committed suicide with a gun shot wound to the chest. He did, however, send one request via text message, saying he wanted to have his brain donated for research.

His brain has been sent to the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy (CSTE).

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative disease. CTE is described as:

Early on, CTE sufferers may display clinical symptoms such as memory impairment, emotional instability, erratic behavior, depression and problems with impulse control.  However, CTE eventually progresses to full-blown dementia.

Concussions can mess up the senses and make a person lose consciousness. But imaging machines don't pick up the brain damage that occurs after a person gets repeated blows to the head. Last year, the center in Boston found CTE in the brains of six former NFL players, and the brain damage wasn't on the surface. The damage was found deep in the tissue.

At the Boston center, the case studies include:

  • Lou Creekmur: Member of the NFL. Hall of Fame who died at the age of 82. He has the most advanced case of CTE and was the tenth player diagnosed with CTE.
  • Mike Borich: Former college football player who died at the age of 42. First case of CTE in a wide receiver.
  • John Grimsley: Former NFL player who died at age 45. First brain examined by CSTE.
  • Thomas McHale: Former NFL who died at the age of 45. Sixth player to be diagnosed with CTE.
  • John Doe (identity not revealed): Former high school football player who died at age 18. Earliest case of CTE.

To prevent injuries, the NFL is establishing a standardized concussion test to use next season. According to the NFL:

The standardized exam has three components: cognitive, with questions for the player; neurological, with the athletic trainer or doctor examining the player's eye movement and doing hands-on physical checks; and the balance test.

Twenty-four symptoms will be listed, including confusion, headaches and trouble sleeping.

A Suicide, a Last Request, a Family's Questions [The New York Times]

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