Dave Duerson’s Chilling Message To The NFL

Former Chicago Bear great Dave Duerson died of a self-inflicted gun shot wound to the chest nearly two weeks ago. In his final hours the four-time pro bowler sent text messages to family members asking that his brain be examined for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease found in individuals that have been subjected to multiple concussions and other forms of head trauma. Duerson’s final message to his family should send chills down the spine of any owner or player lobbying for an 18-game NFL season.

As the family of the late Dave Duerson prepared his final arrangements, the NFL owners and players were locked in a battle for revenue sharing and among other things an 18-game season that assuredly increases the in all likelihood the probability for player concussions and head injuries from this past season.

Ironically, Duerson served on a NFL panel that weighs disability claims from retired players – in recent years the panel has come under scrutiny for denials of claims related to diminished mental capacities stemming from football. Duerson’s family has agreed to to donate his brain to Boston University’s medical school for their study of the degenerative disease, which has been tied to depression, dementia and occasionally suicide in the former players.

In studies done on five NFL players (post mortem) the findings are that their brains resemble that of a boxer or an 80-year old.

That’s not worth 2 more games on any schedule.

 The most notable of NFL players to suffer from CTE was Mike Webster the Hall of Fame center for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970’s and 80’s. Webster’s life after football spiraled out of control into a world of drug abuse, homelessness, depression and dementia. Webster died of a heart attack on September 24, 2002 homeless and unprotected by the shield that only seems to take care of their own as long as they contribute to their “bottom line”. Others that were diagnosed with CTE at the time of their deaths were former Eagles safety Andre Watters and former Steelers lineman Terry Long.

Boston University Center for the Study of  Traumatic Encephalopathy discovered that 13 NFL players (some of whom committed suicide) suffered from CTE. Among them was Chris Henry who was suffering from CTE at the time of his death (non-CTE related) last season.

Roger Goodell, the NFL owners and the NFLPA are beyond wrong – this is a league that has reluctantly, if at all  taken care of their own once they’ve left the playing field. Whether it was Johnny Unitas still doing card shows after losing total use of his right hand to pay medical bills or former Steerlers lineman Mike Strzelczyk, a fun loving guy by all accounts who took Central New York police on a 40-mile chase that ended in his fiery death because he was running from “evil voices” that he was hearing.

Dave Duerson’s final wish was to be a contributor into finding out why the sport that he loved so much could bring him to this point. “Please, see that my brain is given to the NFL’s brain bank,” was his written message before his suicide.

Duerson, who had become a thriving business owner after his playing days had fallen on hard times, he had filed for bankruptcy this past September as his 17-room home went into foreclosure.

Duerson more than likely would have recovered from his financial woes – but dealing with short-term memory loss, blurred vision and headaches on the “left side of his brain” were the onset of something that Duerson would not allow to run it’s course.

If Duerson didn’t not suffer any effects of CTE – he took his life out of his fear of it. 

The effects of CTE  has not only occured in retired NFL players, it has been diagnosed on the collegiate and high school levels. In April 2010 University of Pennsylvania defensive end Owen Thomas committed suicide at the age of 21.

Football and Boxing are two sports on a dangerously similar parallel. I always wanted my son to play football but I would never entertain the thought of watching him take blow after blow to the head for 12 rounds. It’s like alcohol and drugs – they say one is a slower death, but if you take the “slower death” in heavy doses what’s the difference. 

The NFL is at it’s highest point in revenue and popularity, the one thing that would change all of that is a death on the field (Heaven forbid). Measures need to be taken now to ensure the safety of players at every level of competition.

Begin with eliminating the thought of an 18-game schedule.

11 Responses to “Dave Duerson’s Chilling Message To The NFL”

  1. MODI says:

    My heart goes out to Duerson family.

    Agreed 100%. 18 game schedule is basically criminal. Goodell is out of his mind. It’s hard enough to survive 16.

  2. kos says:

    Duerson is a reminder to us all that the game that many of us love to watch takes a toll on those who play. The injuries that we can readily see is one thing, it’s the ones that we don’t see that the NFL and NFLPA need to address more.

    Even most fans don’t want an 18 game season according to one poll that I saw right before the Super Bowl. It’s strictly a way for the owners to make more $$$. Goodell tried to frame it at his State of the NFL speech as “teams will still play 20 games. It’s just that instead of having 4 preseason games and 16 regular season games, now you’ll have 2 preseason and 18 regular season.” Of course that doesn’t count the teams that regularly make the playoffs and could end up playing as many as 22 REAL games. Yeah, players get hurt in preseason. But the reality is, most players only play extensively in the 3rd preseason game. Oh, and I can’t forget, it should be criminal for the NFL to charge regular season prices to a preseason game!

    The players catch some of the flack about an extra 2 games too, because of their always complaining about preseason. They’ve given the owners ammunition to talk about adding the extra games. I’m glad that they aren’t caving in to the owners wishes on that one and about retirement and health benefits.

  3. Miranda says:

    I hope the union does not give in to the 18 game plan. It is just not worth it.

    RIP Dave Duerson.

  4. Mizzo says:

    I’d kick my son’s ass if he ever played football on a competitive level and it’s such a shame he’s so talented. He’s going to a post grad school for hoops and they are inquiring if he might want to pick up the sport again. #nohaps

  5. Ron Glover says:

    I’m reconsidering football for Q this fall, breaks my heart to do it but the alternative makes this a no-brainer (no pun intended).

  6. HarveyDent says:

    Are you not entertained? ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?

    I really think the owners are going to take the PR hit when the lockout happens because even many self-absorbed fans see that 18 games are wrong and that no one can reasonably yell broke when there’s a $9 billion pie.

    C’mon mang

  7. TC says:

    Goodell is out of his gourd. These stories about injured vets suffering perhaps not fully understood injuries are getting wider play, the NFL has never been more popular, and yet Goodell is acting like a little Napoleon. I hope that the NFLPA gets their side of the story out more widely because if they do, NFL will not get this deal.

  8. Julius says:

    Just to give a positive spin to this, Duerson went out like a hero. Think about it. You’re depressed as hell, about to commit suicide, and you make a special effort to kill yourself in such a way that scientists can study your brain and learn something that may help others avoid similar trauma in the future. The man deserves a round of applause for that at least.

  9. Ron Glover says:

    Duerson’s case while unfortunate hopefully will save lives in the long run along with much help from the NFL. I can only assume that he was thinking, “do this now before I harm others as well, and in the process keep this from happening to another one of my brothers.”

    I don’t know if martyr is the proper word, but it’s the only one that comes to mind right now.

  10. MODI says:

    martyr is the proper word!