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On Saturday December 1, Jovan Belcher shot his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins, the mother of their 3-month-old daughter, several times. He then drove to the Kansas City Chief’s practice facility and shot himself in front of his general manager, head coach and linebacker coach.
The reasoning behind the murder-suicide of the Chiefs linebacker is being linked to a brain disease called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), which comes in an “ordered and predictable” four-stage Pattern. CTE typically begins with headaches and an inability to focus, then moves to depression, memory loss and outbursts of anger, according to the Boston University Medical Journal, BRAIN.
Two days after the tragic occurrence, Brain published an extensive study of CTE, a brain-destroying disease that occurs as a consequence of repetitive mild traumatic brain injury.
According to the study, CTE is clinically associated with symptoms of irritability, impulsivity, aggression, depression, short-term memory loss and heightened suicidality that usually begins 8–10 years after experiencing repetitive mild traumatic brain injury. As evidenced through Belcher’s actions before the murder-suicide, he seems to have experienced some of these symptoms and they may have been a result of him having CTE.
According to a friend of Belcher’s, Zoe, who emailed a media website deadspin.com, Belcher was described as “a young man whipsawed between football-related head trauma and ongoing substance abuse. She also speculated that a “combination of alcohol, concussion and prescription drugs,” along with the apparent domestic issues, led to the murder-suicide.
An episode of short-term memory loss is also mentioned by Belcher’s friend where he took a few direct hits to the head at a game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Belcher “was dazed and was suffering from short-term memory loss. He could not remember the events that had taken place prior to that game or what he had said to get Kasi [Kasandra Perkins] to return home.”
The report stated that the stage of heightened suicidality usually takes 8-10 years before it manifests. With Belcher having domestic problems, alleged alcoholism and prescription drug issues, these factors may have sped up the progression of his condition to where he wanted to commit suicide.
According to the study, “Among the 51 subjects with CTE and CTE-MND, there were seven deaths from suicide; six others clearly expressed suicidal ideations at some point during their life. There were six deaths from drug or alcohol overdose.”
Belcher is the sixth NFL player to commit suicide in the last two years, and with the number increasing more research will have to be done to determine if CTE is the culprit of these deaths. The current study from BRAIN proves what most researchers have been speculating for some years:
“Of the 35 former professional American football players (34 National Football League and one Canadian Football League), one showed no disease (Case 27, age 26 years), three had stage I/IV disease, three had stage II/IV, nine had stage III/IV disease, seven had stage IV/IV disease, two had CTE plus Alzheimer’s disease, four had CTE plus Lewy body disease, two had CTE plus Alzheimer’s disease and Lewy body disease, four had CTE plus frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) and three had CTE and motor neuron disease (CTE-MND).”
With only one individual tested having no disease, there is an apparent connection between direct head injuries that professional football players receive and CTE but more research will have to be conducted in order to make more concrete determinations.