Dave Duerson family pushing concussion safety to Chicago high school football players

August 24, 2012 (CHICAGO)

It's part of a safety effort led by the family of late Bears player Dave Duerson.

Duerson's family says concussion-related brain trauma caused by football injuries were factors in his suicide.

Duerson's family and a foundation in his name want to make sure football-related concussions are better detected and treated.

High school players and coaches are increasingly aware about the dangers posed by concussions. Chicago athletics staffs in the past few years have been given a lot more training in how to recognize concussion symptoms, but now they will have a tool that will allow them to make quick judgments whether a player should come off the field.

After NFL great Dave Duerson took his own life 18 months ago, researchers determined that he had suffered from a brain disease brought on by the many hits he took as a pro football player. That medical revelation was -- his family says -- a gift of science.

"And in receiving that incredible gift of science, my family and I feel compelled to give back," said Tregg Duerson, Dave's son.

Through their foundation, Duerson's family is giving 80 concussion testing kits to those Chicago public high schools with football programs.

The kits use what is called the King-Devick test. Here's how it works: If a player takes a hard hit that might suggest the possibility of even a mild concussion, he goes to the sideline, and he reads -- as fast as he can -- numbers that are printed on three charts.

Every player is timed doing this rapid number reading so they have a baseline. If they're popped in practice or a game, a coach or staffer times them reading the numbers again.

"It's just really simple: You can't read those numbers as fast when you have a concussion," said test designer Steve Devick.

If the read is slower than the baseline time, it's a signal to remove the athlete from play until more detailed concussion testing can be done.

"I didn't think much of it, but I kept playing, and it got a lot worse," said Whitney Young Senior Matt Scott.

Two years ago, Scott suffered a mild concussion on the football field. He thinks the test is a good thing.

"It's diagnosed on the sideline," Scott said. "You know right away and there's no guessing."

In years past, there wasn't even any guesswork about concussions.

"It's always been -- back in my day – 'Suck it up, keep going,' " said former Chicago Bears player Otis Wilson.

But medical awareness has changed dramatically since Duerson teammate and friend Otis Wilson last played. And doing something to further that awareness -- through concussion kits -- is what his family treasures as Dave Duerson's legacy.

"When we found out about it and learned about it and got educated, we jumped on it immediately," said Alicia Duerson, Dave's wife.

"I know he's looking down at us now with his big smile," said Tregg Duerson, "heavy mustache and Cuban cigar, hoping that his struggles will inspire safety for others."

Copyright © 2023 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.