14 September 2010
A troubling but absorbing article in The New York Times (linked here) tells the story of Owen Thomas, a University of Pennsylvania football (gridiron) player, who hanged himself in April. He had no previous history of depression but a new autopsy on his brain tissue has found he was suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), “the same trauma-induced disease found in more than 20 deceased NFL players.”
CTE is linked to depression and impulse control, according to the article, although it adds: “Doctors … cautioned that Thomas’s suicide should not be attributed solely or even primarily to the damage in his brain, given the prevalence of suicide among college students in general. But they said that a 21-year-old’s having developed the disease so early raised the possibility that it played a role in his death, and provided arresting new evidence that the brain damage found in NFL veterans can afflict younger players.”
The full piece, which is recommended, considers how CTE can be caused by knocks below concussion level, and also looks at other cases of related deaths in NFL players.