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Were Chronic Head Injuries Responsible for Former College Football Player’s Death?

Written by Ankin Law Office

Chronic head injuries may have played a role in the death of another former football player. According to ESPN, former college football Cullen Finnerty disappeared in the Michigan wilderness during a fishing trip. An autopsy recently revealed that his death was the result of pneumonia caused by inhaling his vomit after he became disoriented, possibly because of painkillers combined with a degenerative brain disease.

The autopsy report found that Finnerty’s anxiety and paranoia while in the woods the night of his disappearance may have been exacerbated by an elevated level of oxycodone and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – the brain disease found in a number of ex-football players. Although the report found that the severity of Finnerty’s CTE was moderate and that it was highly unlikely the disease alone led to his death, the autopsy report highlights the impact that head injuries can have on a person’s long-term health.

“CTE possibly affected his judgment, insight and behavior, but there are other factors, including the use of medications prescribed by his doctor, that most likely contributed to the circumstances surrounding his death,” the center said in a statement on behalf of the Finnerty family. “Unfortunately because of the complexity of his medications and medical status, it is impossible to determine the specific combination of factors that led to his tragic death.”

According to a report issued by Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy last December, 34 former pro football players and nine former college football players suffered from CTE. The NFL currently faces lawsuits by thousands of former players who say the league withheld information on the harmful effects of concussions. Former college football players are currently seeking class certification for a lawsuit brought against the NCAA accusing the NCAA of negligently failing to establish a clear policy about dealing with concussions.

Head injuries, including concussions, have been linked to a number of lifelong medical problems, such as depression, fatigue, and sleep problems. New research indicates that concussions may also increase the risk of stroke, as well. Athletes are especially susceptible to secondary impact syndrome, which can lead to a loss of blood flow to the brain, placing the athlete at an increased risk for learning difficulties and other neuropsychological difficulties.

Concussions and other head injuries are not just a concern for adult athletes, but for youth athletics as well. As we reported, sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries for those persons under age 19 rose 60 percent from 2001 to 2009.

The Chicago head injury attorneys at Ankin Law Office, LLC focus on representing the victims of head injuries, including athletes who have suffered a sports-related head injury.  If you or your child has suffered a sports-related head injury, such as a concussion, do not hesitate to contact one of our skilled Chicago head injury attorneys at (312) 600-0000 to schedule a free consultation.

Categories: Head Injuries