JOSEPH CHERNACH, 25, all-state defensive back with Forest Park HS (WI), died on 6/6/12 after suffering from depression and was found to have Stage II, possibly Stage III CTE (with Stage IV being the most severe). He was an honor student, an Upper Peninsula wrestling and pole vault champion who later attended Central Michigan University and worked for Black River Falls School District. He played Pop Warner, junior varsity and varsity football. “Joseph never played college or pro-sports and we do not know of any concussions during his middle or high school years,” said his mother, Debra Pyka. Dr. Ann McKee’s report noted “numerous tau neurofibrillary tangles in the locus coeruleus, an area of the brain thought to play a role in mood regulation and depression. The changes in the frontal lobes and locus coeruleus were the most severe I’ve seen in a person this age.”—“JOSEPH CHERNACH”, sportslegacy.org, Debra Pyka, his mother (2/21/14 press release from the Sports Legacy Institute). IronMountainDailyNews.com 6/11/12, obituary.
2/6/15 Chernach Update: Joseph Chernach’s mother, Debra Pyka, has filed a $5 million wrongful death lawsuit against Pop Warner youth football, claiming dementia and deep despair caused by brain injuries he suffered while playing youth football influenced his suicide. Chernach hanged himself in his mother’s shed in Hixton, WI, on 6/6/12. The lawsuit says he suffered from CTE that originated in Pop Warner Football when he was 11, playing 4 years (1997-2000), and that Chernach, other children and parents were not warned about the dangers of playing tackle football. It also alleges Pop Warner Football is an “ultrahazardous activity” that is intrinsically dangerous to children. The suit says the effects of the diseases began to affect him in his sophomore year of college, when his behavior became increasingly bizarre, as he became progressively depressed and ultimately paranoid, distrusting his close friends and family. He stopped going to class, would sleep all day and be up at night. Pyka’s lawyer, Gordon Johnson, said they think there have been hundreds of other suicides in which autopsies, had they been done, would have pointed the finger at youth football.—“Pop Warner youth football blamed for Wisconsin man’s suicide”, FoxNews.com 2/6/15, AP.