Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Something I Meant to Write About

A few months ago, I wanted to write about the Chris Benoit family murder-suicide. I'm not a big wrestling fan, but I definitely had about a 3-6 month run where I followed it. And Benoit was one of my favorite performers, mainly because he didn't seem so character-ish. He was just kind of a guy that could do cool looking things. He didn't rely on charisma or looks (he really couldn't). Seemed to me like he was one of the few wrestlers who was real. Of the matches that I remember actually watching, there are probably 3, and Benoit was probably involved in 2 of them. The murder-suicide was just terribly sad.

But there was one thing that always kept in my mind right after the details of the crimes came out. While a lot of the coverage focused on his doctor and ilicit use of steroids or human growth hormone (thinking the murders occurred as a result of "roid rage"), I had a sneaking suspicion that his mental problems that led to the crimes may have had more to do with repeated and frequent concussions than steroid usage.

It hasn't had the big expose that it probably deserves, but the correlation between concussions and mental illness among NFL veterans is a story. Andre Waters commits suicide at 44. Ted Johnson battles depression and has early onset of Alzheimer's Disease at 34. Mike Webster died at 50 after suffering from dementia, amnesia and depression. Terry Long commits suicide at 45, having suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy ("punch-drunk syndrome"). Justin Strzelczyk leads police on a 37-mile high speed chase at 100 miles an hour, leading to a fiery wreck that cost him his life, with no alcohol in his system, after being diagnosed with depression, psychoses and manic behavior. Head injuries and concussions may have affected all of them.

And now there's Chris Benoit. This morning, I read the same sort of study was done on Chris Benoit's brain after his suicide, and there are similarities. Similar early-onset Alzheimer's. Multiple concussions in his medical history.

Concussions are an unknown area. We just don't know how bad they are. And it's terrible that there may be other athletes and former athletes who suffer from the effects of concussions, and whose mental health has been endangered.


Kanu said...

There was an interesting piece on concussions of former NFL players on HBO's Real Sports w/ Bryant Gumbel a while back, and how the league is abandoning the players, not stepping up to the plate to care for them, and denying that there is any proven connection to their time in the NFL. concussions, and the sad states their lives are in. Check it out if you haven't already, it's really well done.

peacedog said...

Gah, it isn't like the NFL can't afford to toss them all cash to care for everything. I guess they fear that doing so will be an implicit "we know there is a problem" and bring about further scrutiny.