Current Ideas: A Blog by Jeffrey A. Schaler

I've created this blog--"Current Ideas"--to share news and views related to my teaching, writing, and interests. If you want to post something, please keep it brief and to the point. Good contact is the appreciation of difference. There's no limit on opinions or information posting, but the tone of this blog is one of reasonably civilized discussion. Hate material is out, as well as unsupported extreme personal attacks.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Expert Ties Ex-Player’s Suicide to Brain Damage

New York Times
By ALAN SCHWARZ
Published: January 18, 2007

Since the former National Football League player Andre Waters killed himself in November, an explanation for his suicide has remained a mystery. But after examining remains of Mr. Waters’s brain, a neuropathologist in Pittsburgh is claiming that Mr. Waters had sustained brain damage from playing football and he says that led to his depression and ultimate death.

The neuropathologist, Dr. Bennet Omalu of the University of Pittsburgh, a leading expert in forensic pathology, determined that Mr. Waters’s brain tissue had degenerated into that of an 85-year-old man with similar characteristics as those of early-stage Alzheimer’s victims. Dr. Omalu said he believed that the damage was either caused or drastically expedited by successive concussions Mr. Waters, 44, had sustained playing football.

In a telephone interview, Dr. Omalu said that brain trauma “is the significant contributory factor” to Mr. Waters’s brain damage, “no matter how you look at it, distort it, bend it. It’s the significant forensic factor given the global scenario.”

He added that although he planned further investigation, the depression that family members recalled Mr. Waters exhibiting in his final years was almost certainly exacerbated, if not caused, by the state of his brain — and that if he had lived, within 10 or 15 years “Andre Waters would have been fully incapacitated.”

Dr. Omalu’s claims of Mr. Waters’s brain deterioration — which have not been corroborated or reviewed — add to the mounting scientific debate over whether victims of multiple concussions, and specifically longtime N.F.L. players who may or may not know their full history of brain trauma, are at heightened risk of depression, dementia and suicide as early as midlife.

The N.F.L. declined to comment on Mr. Waters’s case specifically. A member . . .

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