Dave Duerson’s suicide last Thursday, February 17th, underscores the message about the long term dangers of injuries sustained in football. Duerson, a former Chicago Bear and four time Pro Bowl safety, who enjoyed success in the food industry after his football career, shot himself in the chest to allow his brain to be used for study purposes. Over recent years he had been active on the six-person panel that considers retired players’ claims through the league’s disability plan and the 88 Plan, a fund set up in 2007 to help families cope with cost of caring for a loved one with dementia. Duerson indicated that he was concerned that he had Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) the condition associated with damage to neurons caused by multiple brain injuries. Recently Duerson himself faced serious personal and business problems.
In this month’s Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences a study involving 100 active and former NFL payers is described. The study showed decreased perfusion in the prefrontal, temporal, parietal and occipital lobes and cerebellar regions. The EEG component of the study showed elevated slow waves in the frontal and temporal regions. Similarly, the values on the neuropsychological instruments were decreased from “normal” scores. The study concluded that playing professional football is associated with a higher risk for permanent brain damage.
Certainly, Duerson’s suicide and the release of the study by Amen, et al have heightened our awareness of the risks associated with multiple concussions. There are however, many individuals who have experienced multiple concussions without access to professional evaluation and diagnosis and have developed cognitive, psychiatric and behavioral problems later in life. At Brookhaven we see a significant number of our Behavioral Health program patients with histories of undiagnosed brain injuries and years of psychiatric and psychological problems which have not been linked to earlier brain injuries. Individuals entering into behavioral health programs due to problems with mood changes, behavioral instability, personality change and at-risk behaviors need to be screened for the possibility of brain injury in their past. In the population of soldiers returning from the Middle East war zones there are many men and women who have been exposed to multiple explosions, never had a neurological or neuropsychological evaluation and are now having grave personal difficulties.
If you or a loved one suspects that a brain injury is related to their psychological and/or psychiatric problems “call us, we can help”.