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Study: Duerson Had Brain Damage At Time Of Suicide

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Dave Duerson

Former Chicago teammate Dave Duerson holds up his drivers license that shows he is an organ donor at Chicago’s Soldier Field during a public memorial service for former Chicago Bears great Walter Payton, 06 November 1999. Payton, the NFL all-time leading rusher, died 01 November from liver disease. (Photo Credit: Getty Images, By Tannen Maury)

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UPDATED 05/02/11 1:54 p.m.

BOSTON (CBS) – An autopsy confirmed Monday that former Chicago Bear Dave Duerson had brain damage when he committed suicide in February.

The Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at the Boston University School of Medicine announced on Monday its findings on its examination of Duerson’s brain. The safety who began his NFL career with the Chicago Bears was 50 when he shot himself in the chest.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Regine Schlesinger reports

dave duerson brain Study: Duerson Had Brain Damage At Time Of Suicide

TOP: Three half sections of brain from Dave Duerson show multiple regions of severe damage (brown coloring) in the frontal and temporal cortex, hippocampus and amygdala. BOTTOM: Microscopic images from abnormal brain regions showing severe neurodegeneration. (Credit: Boston University)

Dr. Robert Cantu, co-director of the CTSE, said at a news conference that such results normally are published first, but the Duerson family wanted them released earlier.

“It is our hope that through this research questions that go beyond our interests may be answered,” The Duerson family said in a statement. “Questions that lead to a safer game of football, from professional to Pop Warner; Questions that lead to better diagnostic tests for those alive; and Questions that lead to a cure; will all hopefully be answered.”

normal brain scan Study: Duerson Had Brain Damage At Time Of Suicide

Images of a normal brain of a 65 year old. There is no evidence of abnormalities that would be stained brown in scans of people with brain damage. (Credit: Boston University

Duerson was drafted by the Bears in the third round out of Notre Dame in 1983. He played seven years with Chicago, one with the New York Giants and three with the Phoenix Cardinals.

He shot himself in the chest and died at his home in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla. His family had believed since before his death that he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease, and he has donated his brain to B.U. for research.

The New York Times reports Monday morning that if the autopsy shows Duerson did suffer from the disease, it could shape future debate in the NFL about handling concussions.

While about two dozen retired NFL players have been found to suffer from CTE, Duerson is the only one to commit suicide, the New York Times reports.

“We hope these findings will contribute more to the understanding of CTE,” the NFL said in a statement. “Our Head, Neck and Spine Medical Committee will study today’s findings, and as a league we will continue to support the work of the scientists at the Boston University Center and elsewhere to address this issue in a forthright and effective way.”

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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