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Sports and Suicide

Last week, former NFL standout Junior Seau was found in his home with a gunshot to the chest.  Seau was known for his hard-hitting style during his playing days.  It was a pleasure to watch Seau growing up but it begs to ask the question: why are these suicides happening to athletes?

Many of the athletes who have committed suicide had some type of physical history in their past.  They may have been known as a fighter and/or sustained a concussion while playing.  A concussion is considered to be a traumatic brain injury which may lead to lower alert levels and unconsciousness.  In addition, it can affect memory, reflexes, and coordination.  In some cases, after death, the brain may get to be examined for CTE.  CTE, better known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy is a neurological disorder which results from several blows to the head.  It may lead to erratic behavior like anger or suicide.

Derek Boogaard, formerly of the Rangers, committed suicide last May.  Boogaard was known as a tough guy and had many fights during his career.  Like Boogaard, Rick Rypien was also known as a fighter and was found dead at the age of 27 last August.  Lastly, Wade Belak was found dead about 2 weeks later at the age of 35.  What’s interesting in Belak’s case was that he was recently retired and was just transitioning into the non-hockey life.  For some athletes, that can be difficult.  At one time, you have practice/games every day, teammates, coaches, etc.  After retirement, these people aren’t part of your life all the time.

What should sports leagues and teams do to make sure these tragedies don’t happen again? Leagues and teams should educate all athletes, whether they are rookies or close to retirement about all facets of concussions.  This would include symptoms, possible setbacks, and how to deal with them.  A support system should be instituted by the league so players can receive support when they are troubled.

Leagues should try the best they can to limit shots to the head as much as possible.  The NFL is finally cracking down and with the recent scandal about bounties; they seem to be going in the right direction.  While it is not always possible to avoid the high hit in hockey, a player should try the best he can to not hit an opponent in the head.  The NHL currently in my opinion does an “okay” job with suspending players who take runs at goalies or commit a hit to the head. (However, that’s a topic for another day)

Bob Duggan

Bob Duggan

Huge Sabres and hockey fan! Attends several games a year. Enjoys seeing Coaches Corner and Don Cherry. Glad there is an NHL season! Sabres winning the Cup in 2013! Follow me on twitter @dugganbob
Bob Duggan

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