MIKE JENKINS, 45, tight end with Warren Central HS (IN), 1981-83, suffered multiple concussions, committed suicide on 5/5/11 and was found to have CTE. Originally a quarterback who began playing football when he was 7, his nickname was “Crash”. He also played baseball, basketball, swam, and raced motor bikes, always going all out. He was an ultra-dedicated, loving husband and father to 2 sons, a coach and mentor. Extremely generous, Jenkins would help anyone in need, and, using CPR, once saved the life of a man who had a heart attack at a NASCAR race. He also helped the family of a neighbor who was diagnosed with cancer. Jenkins began to have angry outbursts, became combative at work, struggled with alcoholism, and hated himself for being unable to stop drinking. His last concussion was in February 2011, caused by slipping on ice. He was sick with post-concussion symptoms, sometimes had a blank look in his eyes, began to miss his sons’ games, and there was a weekend when he did not get out of bed. He once spaced out driving his semi and a coworker had to grab the steering wheel to prevent the truck from crossing the center line. After having dinner together on Easter Sunday 2011, Jenkins couldn’t remember how to get back to his brother’s house, which was located in the neighborhood where they’d grown up. It was the last day his brother, Rick, saw Mike alive.–“Mike Jenkins Legacy Donor Page”, Sports Legacy Institute. Memorials from the Jenkins family: mother Marcia, wife Kim, brother Rick, and sons Nick and Kyle.
DANIEL BRETT, 16, junior varsity linebacker with Cypress Bay HS (FL), committed suicide on 5/14/11 after being diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome and suffering from ‘migraine-type headaches’ and depression. He began playing football at 11 and never complained and never told anyone when he was hurt until August 24, 2009. “Coach, I can’t see,” Daniel finally confessed and later acknowledged he had been hit head-on and taken quite a few blows that left him seeing stars. Brett regularly saw a neurologist, was on anti-seizure/migraine medication, visited a chiropractor, and even tried acupuncture. Nothing helped his chronic headaches, growing depression, sluggishness, and apathy. His value judgments and behaviors deteriorated as he tried in vain to alleviate his pain through self-medication. Psychiatrists at one hospital prescribed anti-depressant and anti-psychotic medications geared to treat his depression, but they, just like all the numerous well-intentioned medical professionals in Broward County, never followed a process to also treat his injured brain. Doctors from the University of Miami’s Concussion Program said that Brett had suffered multiple concussions. He was an amazing young man with a kind heart, a love for life, music, friends and family, and a zest for football. From March to May 2011, Brett’s quality of life improved greatly due to the correct diagnoses and treatment by the doctors at the University of Miami’s Concussion Program. But it was too late. Brett was not found to have CTE, but did have in his brain tissue an abnormal build-up of tau protein, which is found in brains with CTE. In 2011 Brett’s family incorporated The Daniel Brett Foundation, Inc. as a non-profit 501 (3) (c) organization and worked to get Florida’s Concussion Law passed in April 2012, which was dedicated to Daniel.–“Daniel Brett’s Legacy Donor Page”, Sports Legacy Institute, Diana Pilar Brett, Daniel’s mother.
GEORGE MONTGOMERY, 43, running back with Arizona State, 1989-93, committed suicide by shooting himself at the end of July 2014 and was found to have CTE. He had also been in the Philadelphia Eagles organization and played a couple years in Europe. His mother, Denese, contends that Montgomery did not commit suicide: “My child wouldn’t kill himself.” On 7/31/14 hikers found his body floating face down in Beaver Creek in Yavapai County (AZ), whose medical examiner determined from an autopsy that Montgomery shot himself 3 times and sustained 4 wounds, 2 shots entering the heart. Investigators found a .380-caliber semiautomatic handgun in the water, according to the police report. It had one hollow-point round in the chamber, but the five-round magazine was empty. Authorities tracked the gun to San Diego, where it had been reported stolen in 2011. A representative from the Arizona Attorney General’s Office told sheriff’s deputies that Montgomery had been investigated before and was the “main target” in a criminal case that had sprung from a $3 million Ponzi scheme.–“Mother seeks answers in son’s mysterious death”, The Arizona Republic 5/26/15, Matthew Casey. From USAtoday.com.
ADRIAN ROBINSON, 25, linebacker with Pittsburgh, Denver, San Diego and Washington, 2012-13, committed suicide by hanging on 5/16/15 in Philadelphia. The Harrisburg, PA, native was a 2-time all-state selection at Harrisburg HS and the MVP of the Big 33 Football Classic during his senior year. As a sophomore at Temple, where he never missed a game in his college career, he was the MAC Defensive Player of the Year. Robinson had signed to play in the CFL for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the upcoming season.–“Medical Examiner: Harrisburg football star Adrian Robinson killed himself”, PennLive.com 5/18/15, Eric Veronikis.
AUSTIN TRENUM, 17, fullback and linebacker with Brentsville HS (VA), committed suicide by hanging on 9/27/10. His parents, Gil and Michelle, who grew up in the football-steeped cultures of Ohio and Texas, said Austin had about 4 concussions. After being taken to the hospital for a concussion sustained in a game, Michelle asked him if he wanted a Tylenol because he’d had a headache the previous time he’d sustained a concussion. “Mom, I’m fine. I don’t have a headache. Except for my normal football headache. I get them after every game.” Some experts believe 8 of 10 concussions go undiagnosed. A concussion is not a bruise, but a disruption of the intricate system of electrochemical signals that constitute normal brain function, and can drain the brain of energy. Symptoms include headaches, sensitivity to light, confusion, lack of focus, irritability, and loss of interest in favorite activities. With rest and a gradual return to regular activity, most athletes who suffer a single concussion experience no permanent ill effects. Some, however, suffer post-concussion syndrome, in which symptoms persist for months or years, in rare cases permanently. Having one concussion may increase the risk of another. Multiple concussions are associated with an increased risk of post-concussion syndrome as well as depression and memory loss. Dr. Gerard Gioia says the conventional medical wisdom of waking concussion patients every few hours to check for brain bleeding is actually not a good idea, because sleep is essential to allow cells to rebalance themselves. He says the frontal lobes, which house our executive control centers and constitute about one-third of total brain mass, and are located just behind the forehead, absorb much of the contact in football. In teenagers, the frontal lobes are still developing and require a great amount of energy to function properly. Any disruption can affect the ability to reason, to choose right from wrong, to override impulses, to connect current actions to future consequences. An excellent student and extremely stable individual, Austin Trenum did not show any signs of depression and did not leave a suicide note. A post-mortem examination showed no signs of CTE. He had multifocal axonal injury, a condition where axons, which connect neurons and conduct electricity in the brain, are badly damaged. He had 2 younger brothers who have since stopped playing football: Cody finished his high school season and quit football; Walker suffered a concussion and was persuaded by his mother to stop playing.–“Did Football Kill Austin Trenum?”, Washingtonian.com 7/23/12, Patrick Hruby.
COLETON STARUCH, 15, football and basketball player with Bynum HS (TX), committed suicide at home on 3/21/15. An eighth grader from the same school, whose name was not released, also died on 3/23/15. “We will do what we can to investigate it, but at this time nothing is being confirmed if there was a suicide pact between the students,” said Hill County Sheriff Michael Cox.—“Bynum: Two Student Deaths Rock Small School District”, KWTX.com 3/26/15, Marlena Hamilton.
PATRICK RISHA, 32, running back with Dartmouth, 2006 grad, committed suicide by hanging on 9/17/14 and was found to have CTE. A product of the Monongahela Valley and son of a football coach, Pat, who’d played with the Washington Redskins, Patrick started playing Mon Valley Midget football when he was 10. Known as “The Horse,” he was an All-District selection and Daily News MVP in high school. His mother, Karen Kinzle Zegel, said his entire body was “like a piece of meat” as a result of all the practices and games, and he once came off the field with no memory of 2 touchdowns he’d scored. He had occasional fits of rage over nothing and once swallowed a bottle of Tylenol after being grounded for drinking. His teammate at Dartmouth, Rich Walton, said of Risha, “A pounding running back. He just loved the contact.” He had an up-and-down college career, which included a back injury that introduced him to painkillers. He went from gregarious to reclusive, had trouble with schoolwork, and took Adderall for attention deficit disorder, but no dosage could lock in his focus. Returning to Mon Valley, Risha was unable to carry himself, gambled online, overspent, had fits of anger, couldn’t handle simple business, accumulated 6 months of unopened mail, and, when he heard his sister hadn’t received her prepaid wedding video, broke into the videographer’s home with a sledgehammer to get it. His father died and his girlfriend gave birth to their son in October 2010. Risha was on the phone with his mother just before committing suicide. She has begun a website, www.StopCTE.org.
–“A Son of Football Calls His Mother”, NY Times 4/26/15, Dan Barry. [I learned of this story from Dave Pear’s Blog.]
KOSTA KARAGEORGE, 22, senior defensive tackle with Ohio State, 2014, was found dead in a dumpster on campus on 11/30/14, having committed suicide by shooting himself (a handgun was found in the dumpster). He’d been missing for 4 days. According to his mother, Susan Karageorge, the walk-on had had several concussions and a few spells of being extremely confused. He’d texted her about 1:30 a.m. the day he went missing, apologizing and saying concussions had messed up his head. “I’m sorry if I’m an embarrassment.” He’d also complained of head pain at other times. Called “an important practice player” by head coach Urban Meyer, Karageorge appeared in only one game and was known for never missing practice. [ My Comment: Though OSU issued a statement that he was given medical care and proper protocol was followed, the fact that he never missed practice despite several concussions raises doubt, given that most medical professionals now recommend a minimum of 10 days on the sidelines with a strict reduction of mental activity to give the brain time to recuperate.]—“Missing Ohio State football player is found dead”, SF Chronicle 12/1/14, from AP.
“I knew there was something wrong with his mind. Ray knew. If nothing else, we need to make sure the players and their wives know what they’re getting into.”—RAY EASTERLING’s wife of 36 years, Mary Ann, who found the former Atlanta safety, 62, dead with a gun nearby. An autopsy showed signs of CTE. Easterling played for Atlanta, 1972-79. (Businessweek above.)
JACOB BELL, 33, guard with Tennessee, the St. Louis Rams, and Cincinnati, 2004-12, retired in 5/12 because he feared for his long-term health in the wake of so many stories about the effects of concussions and other injuries, and cited the recent suicide of Junior Seau. He played in 109 NFL games. Bell had just signed a free-agent contract in April 2012 with Cincinnati.—“Cincinnati Bengals guard Jacob Bell retires”, NFL.com 5/8/12, referencing the St. Louis Post Dispatch.