An interesting – and a disheartening – story here about the brain analysis of late Bengals WR Chris Henry. As detailed in this Peter Keating piece on ESPN.com , West Virginia University researchers showed Henry had traumatic injuries to his brain before he died last year.
Henry, only 26 years old who had a five-year career in the NFL, died last December when he fell (or jumped) off the back of a pick-up truck while in a verbal altercation with his fiancé. When researchers analyzed his brain, they found degenerative brain damage, also known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
From Keating’s article:
Researchers have now discovered CTE in the brains of more than 50 deceased former athletes, including more than a dozen NFL and college players, pro wrestler Chris Benoit and NHL player Reggie Fleming.
Repeated blows to the head are the only known cause of CTE, researchers say. Concussive hits can trigger a buildup of toxic tau protein within the brain, which in turn can create damaging tangles and threads in the neural fibers that connect brain tissue. Victims can lose control of their impulses, suffer depression and memory loss, and ultimately develop dementia.
Henry, who had been in trouble with the law on multiple occasions, seemed to have turned around his life before breaking his arm last season. The Bengals placed him on the Injured Reserve list, and that was the reason he was in Charlotte that day in December instead in the Cincinnati locker room.
CTE has affected many athletes – not just in football – and, according to the researchers, it might have impacted Henry’s emotional life.
"Superimposed on the acute brain injuries Chris suffered when he died, there was fairly extensive damage throughout his brain that was fully consistent with CTE,” said Julian Bailes, director of the Brain Injury Research Institute, which got permission from Henry’s mother to study Henry’s brain. “This syndrome is expressed not only as changes in the brain, but clinically, as behavioral changes. And starting with Mike Webster, we have seen common threads in these cases: emotional disturbances, depression, failed personal relationships and businesses, suicidal thoughts, sometimes alcohol or drug use."
Scary, scary stuff that, hopefully, will be addressed during the labor negotiations between the NFL Players Association and the owners.
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