The family of former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson has filed a lawsuit against the National Football League claiming that the NFL knew that multiple concussions were causing irreversible harm to players and did nothing about it.
Duerson took his own life in 2011 after a steep personal decline that included bankruptcies, assault charges and divorce. An autopsy of his brain showed significant damage from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. The coroner was only able to do an autopsy on Duerson’s brain because he shot himself in the chest to protect his head for research.
The Duerson family’s suit has been filed in state court in Chicago. Many similar cases dealing with personal injuries caused by concussions have been consolidated into a federal case in Philadelphia.
Duerson was a smart, charismatic and successful businessman, a husband and a proud father of four. He was a trustee at the University of Notre Dame, his alma mater, and had been approached by both the Democratic and the Republican parties in about running for office.
His life changed dramatically around the time he turned 45. He lost his business and his marriage, and he became estranged from his children as his decision-making and his behavior became erratic.
That is about the same age that other NFL retirees who suffered concussions noticed their lives spinning out of control. Players like Larry Kaminski, who played for eight seasons with the Denver Broncos, described a personal deterioration, with increasing anger and depression issues. Kaminski described going to a “dark place,” to the Kitsap Sun in Washington State.
Duerson’s “dark place” likely caused him to attack a 75-year-old retired NFL player during a congressional hearing and ultimately to end his own life.
The Duersons claim in their lawsuit that the NFL engaged in a decades-long propaganda initiative to convince players that concussions do not lead to permanent brain damage. Medical evidence has stacked up on the side of the Duersons and others who want to hold the NFL accountable.