By JOSH SCHWARZ
Another former NFL player was found dead in his home on Sept. 24 as a result of a concussion-induced suicide.
Paul Oliver, 29, a former defensive-back for the San Diego Chargers, was discovered in his home with a single self-inflicted gunshot wound. The tragic death is the latest in a worrisome recent string of former football player suicides.
Almost all of these incidents were found to be concussion related. Studies on the brain find that the ex-athletes suffered from a brain complication called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, as a result of multiple hits to the head.
“When a person suffers a concussion, they are at greater risk of suffering a second concussion, which will take longer to recover from and has the potential to lead to a post-concussion syndrome,” said Dr. Harrold Leader, a neurologist at North Jersey Neurologic Associates. “These symptoms can be very disabling and persist for weeks, months, or years depending on the severity.”
According to NFL.com, more than 4,500 former NFL athletes sued the league as a result of dementia, Alzheimer’s, and/or depression caused by blows to the head. The players suggested that the league was benefitting from injured players receiving bone-jarring hits for highlight reels.
Leader attributed the long-lasting post-concussion effects to players not being properly evaluated after taking a hit to the head.
“The consequences of premature return to play are very severe,” Leader said. “The athlete is at risk of a potentially fatal complication called second-impact syndrome which is when an athlete has not recovered from a prior concussion, incurring a second concussion may lead to fatal brain swelling. “
With all the suicides and other post-concussion situations lately, the coaches, trainers, and other medical professionals in charge of allowing a player to re-enter a game hold more responsibility than ever.
“I think the individual who is evaluating these athletes has to be someone who is experienced with patients with brain injuries because that’s indeed what a concussion is,” Leader said. “We need to be sure that the athlete’s brain is back to normal before they return to play, not when the athlete feels that he or she is back to normal.”
Green Bay player gets a message from his son after hit to head
Green Bay Packers tight-end Jermichael Finley got more than he asked for when he made a play up the middle of the field in the week 3 loss to the Bengals on Sept. 22.
After catching a pass from Aaron Rodgers, he had no time to react before Bengals safety George Iloka collided with the head of Finley. Finley quickly rose up, but wobbled his way toward the sideline before falling again in what was a scary scene. (Watch the hit here)
Iloka was fined $15,000 by the NFL for the hit, but that won’t erase what Finley went through.
“When I came back to reality, when I got my senses, when I got my balance and my vision back, I picked up my phone and my wife had called at least 30-plus times,” Finley told CBS Sports. “She put my son on the phone and he asked if there was a flight I could catch — during the game — and he said, ‘Daddy, I don’t want you to play football anymore.’ That was a little hard to take.”
Finley gave more insight on how it feels to take that kind of hit to the head in a football game as he recalled the frightening experience.
“I looked to the sidelines and all I saw was jerseys, I saw the yellow pants we wear and I didn’t see no head or legs — everybody was decapitated and my body was on fire,” Finley said during the interview.
Finley is still sidelined and must follow the NFL concussion protocol before he can return to play.