Jovan Belcher, an inside linebacker who played for the Kansas City Chiefs, recently killed his girlfriend and later killed himself in front of the general manager and the coach of the Chiefs. Many of the people close to Belcher were shocked by his recent actions and had not noticed any previous behavior which would indicate any underlying problems. Others, however, are looking to whether he acted as a result of depression caused by a degenerative brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). An autopsy will be able to determine if in fact Jovan Belcher suffered from this disease.
CTE is often linked to contact sports like football, boxing, and ice hockey, and is often found in people with multiple concussions and other head injuries. Some of the symptoms of CTE include dementia, memory loss, aggression, and depression. Other recent deaths of NFL players including Junior Seau, Dave Duerson, and Ray Easterling have been linked to the disease and have raised serious concerns as to the long term affect concussions have on football players.
Approximately 2000 NFL players plan to file suit in federal court against the NFL claiming that officials at the NFL failed to acknowledge and address the risks associated with the sport and failed to tell the athletes about the risks they were facing. Many of these players believe that the NFL could have done a better job to protect its players and to ensure that concussion related issues like CTE are fully addressed. The NFL must ensure the long term safety of its players and not ignore problems potentially affecting nearly every player in the league.