Former Bear Dave Duerson takes his own life, still finds a way to help others

Dave Duerson, a key member of the Super Bowl-winning 1985 Bears team, committed suicide on Thursday by shooting himself in the chest. As NFL Fanhouse wrote, it was a sad end to a life of a man who was troubled after leaving football.

But while this story has a tragic ending, Duerson managed to leave a generous gift before leaving this world.

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.

These are the stories that many fans acknowledge but quickly forget because we don’t want anything bad to be associated with a game that is so cherished. But Duerson’s story is just one of many involving former football players that have been affected by a sickness after their playing days are over. Whether it’s depression, addiction to painkillers or serious brain trauma, there are many, many examples of former players that are dealing with serious health problems.

Football is a nasty sport. It always has been and probably always will be. The game has come a long way since leather helmets and no shoulder pads, but more research must be done. These players are human beings first and foremost and it’s difficult to hear stories like Duerson’s. Hopefully his final gift can provide researchers insight about what can be done to protect current and future players.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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