CHICAGO (CN) – The son of Dave Duerson, the NFL veteran who shot himself in the heart rather than in the head, to preserve his brain for science, claims the league’s concealment of the link between repeated concussions and degenerative brain disease contributed to his father’s suicide.
Tregg Duerson sued the NFL and Riddell, which makes 75 percent of the league’s helmets, in Cook County Court.
Dozens of NFL veterans and their families have filedlawsuits claiming the league suppressed and manipulated evidence about the risks of multiple concussions. Players claim the NFL actively hid the link between concussions and cognitive denegation, which led early onset dementia and death for numerous veterans.
Tregg Duerson blames the NFL for his father’s suicide.
On Feb. 17, 2011, just before he shot himself in the chest, Dave Duerson sent his family a text message that said, “Please see that my brain is given to the NFL’s brain bank,” The New York Times reported at the time.
“Immediately prior to his death, Dave Duerson expressed his desire that his brain be studied post-mortem, as he believed that ‘there’s something going on’ in his brain,” the complaint states.
“Neuro-pathological review of Dave Duerson’s brain at Boston University School of Medicine determined that Dave Duerson was, indeed, suffering from progressive, advanced brain damage, commonly referred to as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (‘CTE’).”
Duerson played for the Chicago Bears and New York Giants for 11 years. He suffered three documented concussions during his NFL career, and more that were undocumented, his son says.
“In the 10 years leading up to his death, as a result of the progressive brain degeneration, CTE, Dave Duerson, a man with no prior history of depression or psychological issues, complained of intense headaches, worsening short-term memory, language difficulties, vision trouble, and a growing problem with impulse control,” Tregg Duerson says.
The complaint adds: “If the NFL would have taken the necessary steps to oversee and protect Dave Duerson by warning him of the dangerous of head traumas and educating and training all persons involved with the NFL teams in the recognition, prevention and treatment of concussive brain injuries, then Dave Duerson would not have suffered dangerous repetitive head trauma, would have recovered more rapidly, and would not have sustained permanent damage to his brain which contributed to cause his death.”
The complaint states that other NFL veterans who killed themselves also suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Terry Long played pro football for 8 years and killed himself by drinking antifreeze. Andre Waters played for 12 years and shot himself, as did John Grimsley, who had a 10-year career. Justin Strzelczyk died driving a car 90 mph against traffic after playing pro football for nine years.
All of these men died before they were 50 years old and suffered repeated head trauma while playing for the NFL, Tregg Duerson says.
“Despite its publications and propaganda to the contrary, the NFL knew, or should have known, that former NFL players exhibiting mood disorder (mainly depression), memory loss, paranoia, poor insight/judgment, outbursts of anger or aggression, irritability, apathy, confusion, reduced concentration and/or agitation may have CTE and may be prone to suicide or other tragic death,” according to the complaint. (Parentheses in complaint.)
Tregg Duerson says the NFL’s failures contributed to his father’s death.
“As a result of the NFL’s failures, Dave Duerson’s children, Tregg Duerson, Chase Duerson, Brock Duerson and Tayler Duerson, have lost the love, affection, care, attention, companionship, comfort, guidance and protection their father provided, and each has experienced grief and sorrow due to his passing,” the complaint states.
Tregg Duerson also blames the helmet-maker: “Riddell never warned Dave Duerson that its helmets would not prevent concussions and/or that concussions and sub-concussive brain traumas could, and would, cause permanent brain damage,” the complaint states.
“Dave Duerson played through the concussions and sub-concussive repetitive brain traumas and their associated symptoms because he, like the rest of the NFL players at the time, believed he was safe in his helmet. …
“The failure to warn of an unreasonably dangerous condition was a proximate cause of the wrongful death suffered by Dave Duerson.”
Tregg Duerson seeks damages from the NFL for negligence, fraud, conspiracy and wrongful death, and from Riddell for failure to warn and wrongful death.
He is represented by William Gibbs, with Corboy & Demetrio.