TBI DRIVES FORMER NFL PLAYER TO COMMIT SUICIDE IN OREGON PARK

January 1, 2012

Another retired NFL player’s life has ended tragically. State police in Polk County, Oregon report that Michael Current’s body was found last week in a national park. The 66-year-old reportedly shot himself in the head. Officials say Current had complained of symptoms related to traumatic brain injury for some time.

At six-foot-five and 274 pounds, Current was an offensive lineman with several teams through 13 seasons, from 1967 to 1979. Current reported that his bell had been rung many times during his college and professional football days. According to colleagues, he complained of headaches and “other problems with his head” caused by the multiple concussions.

Current had other problems at the time of his death. In November, he was charged with five counts of first-degree sexual assault and one count of luring a minor. Prosecutors said the three victims were all 14 or younger.

Each of the assault charges carries a minimum sentence of six years and three months; for Current, a conviction would have meant more than 30 years in prison. He was due at his plea hearing the day after he died.

For the past year at least, the NFL has had to answer a lot of questions about players’ risk of traumatic brain injury and permanent brain damage. Multiple lawsuits claim NFL management knew of the risks of repeated concussions and deliberately kept the information from players.

The description of a concussion as “having your bell rung” minimizes the true nature of the injury. Repeated concussions can lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a dementia-like condition characterized by mood swings, memory loss and aggression, among other symptoms.

Former NFL player Dave Duerson complained of symptoms consistent with CTE before his suicide last year.

Current often complained of headaches and other symptoms consistent with a brain injury. He was in the middle of a serious criminal matter in Oregon when he died earlier this month, but friends and family have not dismissed the idea that his brain injury contributed to his death.

We often write about the effect of repeated blows to the head and multiple concussions. Football players, especially professional football players, sustain an untold number of concussions over the course of their careers, and the results can be devastating. Many players and their families believe the NFL knew about the risks but kept the information — and the push for better protection — from the teams.

The suicide of another player, Dave Duerson, in 2011 brought the issue to national attention. He suffered from depression and memory loss. Before he shot himself, Duerson specifically asked his family to order tests for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a condition associated with repeated brain injuries.

His family donated his brain to the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy. The center is focused on addressing the “concussion crisis” in amateur and professional sports; to date, researchers have identified CTE in 20 deceased football players. Even the NFL is supporting the center — a dramatic switch from the league’s long-time denial that there was such a problem.

Just a year after Duerson’s death, the center announced that his brain did, indeed, show advanced evidence of CTE.

Source: HULIQ.com, “NFL player Michael Current kills self as Duerson,” Dave Masko, Jan. 20, 2012

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