Brain disease may have worried Duerson

In this 1988 handout photo released by NFL Photos, Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson is shown. Duerson, a four-time Pro Bowl safety who played on Super Bowl winners with the Chicago Bears and New York Giants, has died. He was 50. Miami-Dade Police Detective Robert Williams says Duerson's body was found Thursday in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/NFL Photos)

February 21, 2011 3:51:26 PM PST
Former Chicago Bears star Dave Duerson reportedly left messages before he took his life last week to make sure his brain was studied for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative disease tied to depression, dementia and suicide.

Monday, the football stars of tomorrow were among those honored at Halas Hall by the Chicago chapter of the National Football Foundation. Former safety Dave Duerson spent years as a board member. Monday, he was on mind of the man who succeeded him as board president.

"Dave was extremely proactive in helping the chapter here in Chicago," said Chris Kearney, National Football Foundation chapter president. "He was a pioneer in very many ways through the National Football Foundation. We're grateful for everything he has done."

Brian Baschnagel, one of Duerson's teammates on the 1985 Super Bowl Bears, said he is still processing news that Duerson committed suicide last week and that Duerson had concerns he was starting to suffer from a degenerative brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

"I'm extremely saddened," said Baschnagel. "What concerns me is why he took his life, if it's indeed related to head injuries as maybe there is speculation that there is."

Duerson shot himself in the chest, preserving his brain, and apparently left instructions to family members to donate it to research.

Dr. Jeff Mjaanes with the Chicago Sports Concussion Center at Rush University Medical Center said repeated injuries to the head are taken more seriously nowadays by doctors and athletes.

"The classic manifestations are not at the time of concussion," said Dr. Mjaanes. "These actually happen decades later. They're usually early onset dementia, depression or mood disorders, and then even suicide, or what we call parasuicide, or suicide attempts or ideation."

The doctor at the Boston University medical center who will research Duerson's brain received a scholarship from Duerson in 1996 from the National Football Foundation at a ceremony just like the one held Monday.