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Ex-NFL Player Dave Duerson Commits Suicide, Requests Brain Exam

In a tragic story, former Chicago Bears defensive back Dave Duerson committed suicide last Thursday. Now, by his own request, he will have his brain matter tested for chronic traumatic encephalopathy at the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at the Boston University of Medicine.

The 50-year-old former Super Bowl champion was found in his Miami Home dead from a gunshot wound to the chest. Prior to his suicide, he sent out text messages to his family asking for his brain to be tested for the disease after death.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a degenerative brain disease that has been known to impact individuals who experience severe head trauma. Football players, because of the repeated blows to the head that they experience, are commonly diagnosed with the condition.

"Essentially, your brain actually starts falling apart because you've been hit in the head and 10 to 20 years later start getting symptoms, memory problems, emotional problems and eventually it leads to dementia," said Chris Nowinski, co-director of the center.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy generally begins when a protein that is typically a normal part of the brain becomes toxic and starts getting in the way of the cell’s ability to function.

Traditionally mostly experienced by boxers, chronic traumatic encephalopathy cases have been increasing amongst football players in recent years.

"Football players are at very high risk because they take, studies show, about a thousand hits to the head," said Nowinki. "One thousand hits is something we've never really done before with athletes, and we're learning it might be too many."

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