A former NFL player who was part of the Philadelphia-based lawsuit against the NFL died of a self-inflicted bullet wound last week. According to his wife, Ray Easterling suffered from brain disorders including depression, insomnia and dementia as a result of the hard hits he endured while playing for the Atlanta Falcons during the 1970s.
The suit against the NFL alleges that league officials knew about the traumatic brain injury risks associated with the sport, but failed to treat and protect the players. Easterling’s wife said she stills plans to pursue the lawsuit on behalf of her late husband, and she will be encouraging the NFL to set up a fund to assist players with traumatic brain injuries.
“Half the time the player puts themselves back in the game, and they don’t know what kind of impact it has,” she told reporters. “Somehow this has got to be stopped.”
Easterling’s wife and friends said that the 62-year-old began experiencing signs of brain damage 20 years ago. A former Flacons teammate explained it as Easterling “just wasn’t thinking right.” He gave the example that Easterling would randomly switch topics of conversation without knowing how it happened.
Sadly, Easterling is the third former NFL player to take his own life in recent years after suffering from brain damage. Dave Duerson of the Chicago Bears and Terry Long of the Pittsburg Steelers both took their own lives and were later determined to have a debilitating brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
Traumatic brain injuries can be extremely tragic and can deeply impact the lives of the victim and the victim’s family. That is why it’s extremely important to seek treatment right away after suffering a head injury, whether it is from a car accident, sports injury or other mishap.
Sources: The New York Times, “Ray Easterling, of Atlanta’s Grits Blitz, Dies at 62,” April 21, 2012; Fox Sports, “Easterling death ruled a suicide,” A.J. Perex, April 21, 2012