Sports and Concussions Redux

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The murders committed by professional wrestler Randy Benoit and his subsequent suicide may be related to the multiple concussions Benoit experienced over the course of his wrestling career. Dr. Robert Cantu, a neurosurgeon from Concord, Massachusetts and member of Sports Legacy Institute, has conducted tests on sample tissues from Mr. Benoit’s brain. While Dr. Cantu did not connect Mr. Benoit’s concussions with the murders and suicide, he did identify that the level of brain damage experienced by Mr. Benoit could cause depression and irrational behavior. Dr. Cantu did find that the type of damage sustained by Mr. Benoit was consistent with the injuries seen in the several pro football players with multiple concussive injuries who committed suicide over recent years. Dr. Cantu referred to “abnormal protein deposits” which he thought were unrelated to the steroid use attributed to Mr. Benoit. A diary kept by Mr. Benoit prior to his suicide was regarded by Mr. Benoit’s father as “written by someone who was extremely disturbed at the time”. Friends of Mr. Benoit report changes in behavior prior to the murder of his wife and son and his suicide. Pro wrestlers are “at risk” for concussion due to the nature of the moves and falls in their sport.

We continue to see evidence linking concussive, supposedly mild brain injury to potentially lethal behaviors. Sports figures, returning soldiers and school age athletes are in the high risk groups. The burden remains with coaches, parents and medical professionals to recognize the warning signs and assist the person suspected of experiencing a concussion in getting specialized assessment and help.

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