It’s been almost one year since Dave Duerson was found dead in his apartment in Miami on a Saturday morning. The cause of death for the 50 year old wasn’t known at the time. Now we know the cause was suicide and the family is taking action.
Duerson’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the NFL on Thursday. The suit claims the league knew concussions led to long term health problems and didn’t do enough to prevent or treat the injuries that severely damaged his brain before he killed himself last year.
Duerson became a starter in 1985 when the Chicago Bears won the Super Bowl over the New England Patriots. In 1987, he was named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year. He also was the one of the Bears’ NFLPA representatives, and he was a leader through the 1987 strike. The Bears released Duerson after the 1989 season. He signed with the Giants and won a Super Bowl in his only season with the team. He finished out his career playing three seasons for the Phoenix Cardinals.
At the time of his death, former Bears coach Mike Ditka sang the praises of Duerson.
“He was a hell of a football player. He came in at the right time for us because that’s when Todd Bell held out. He fit right in, became a starter. We liked everything about him at Notre Dame. He rounded out that defense. He fit in perfectly with Gary Fencik back there and was one of the leaders of our team.”
The Duerson family suit was filed on behalf of the former safety’s son Tregg and 3 other children. Duerson’s family wants to know more about the NFL’s handling of concussions during his career.
The lawsuit is accusing the NFL of negligently causing the brain damage that led Duerson to take his own life. According to the suit the NFL failed to warn Duerson on the negative effects of concussions. Attorney Thomas Demetrio, who is representing Duerson’s family, said the league should have been a leader in educating current and former players about head injuries.
Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league has reserved comment because they hadn’t received the suit and had a chance to examine it. Goodell, over his years as commissioner, has made it a priority to alleviate concussions and the long lasting problems attached. Goodell has issued fines and suspensions for illegal hits that have caused concussions. But now the suit makes many wonder if the league has done enough throughout the years under former commissioners Paul Tagliabue and Pete Rozelle.
The family also names helmet maker Riddell Inc., alleging that the helmets didn’t adequately protect players from concussions. The company declined comment also. 11 other players are listed as plaintiffs in the suit.
According to the family Duerson suffered at least 10 concussions in his NFL career, and lost consciousness during some. After his suicide notes were found for his family asking that his brain be donated to science.
Researchers at the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University’s School of Medicine concluded he had ”moderately advanced” brain damage and CTE related to blows to the head. These results led to the lawsuit.
Now a court will decide the league’s fate.