Dave Duerson's Sad End Includes a Generous Gift for Others
But before Duerson killed himself, he offered a generous gift to others: His brain.
In a suicide note he sent to friends, Duerson asked that his brain be donated to the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University School of Medicine. The Center has been leading the way in research into how brain damage -- including injuries suffered in collisions on the football field -- can lead to health problems later in life. One theory is that people who have a history of repetitive brain trauma are more likely to experience depression, and studying Duerson's brain may help researchers determine whether brain damage suffered on the football field led to the depression that ultimately caused him to take his life.
Chris Nowinski, a former Harvard football player turned professional wrestler turned co-director of Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, said Duerson had indicated he wanted to be studied in the hopes that some day, we'll know more about how to protect football players from suffering brain damage on the field.
"He had informed (his family) at some point that he wanted his brain to be studied so people could learn more about the effect of brain trauma and so kids could play the game more safely in the future," Nowinski told the Chicago Tribune. "The family requested that I confirm that Mr. Duerson's brain was donated to our research center, and it was Mr. Duerson's wishes."
Nowinski said the research he's done on the brains of former NFL players has indicated that chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a serious risk.
"NFL players are at higher risk for CTE than normal people and probably other athletes as well," Nowinski said. "Of the 14 former NFL players we've completed studies on, 13 of them had the disease."
It's touching to consider that Duerson, a man so despondent that he was about to put a bullet through his heart, was still thinking about one final way he could help others. Here's hoping that in the study of Duerson's brain, researchers learn more about what kind of injuries could drive a man to kill himself, and that future stories like Dave Duerson's can be prevented.