Scholarship News

Dead MSU Football Player Had Brain Damage Due to Repeated Concussions


January 5, 2016
by Susan Dutca-Lovell
Michael Keck, a 25-year-old former football player, has died in a similar manner as did the subject of a recently released film that focuses on concussions, CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) and the NFL. Brain research conducted on the former Division 1 college football player suggests that repeated trauma to the brain in the form of concussions suffered while playing football is to blame for ending the young man's life so abruptly. The findings to date strongly resemble those in the case used for a recently released movie, Concussion, starring Will Smith. The film is based on the true story and researching findings of Dr. Bennet Omalu on pro football player and NFL Hall of Famer Mike Webster. Both this tragic story and the exposure given to this and similar stories by the movie have the potential to greatly impact the NFL and football in general, giving parents second thoughts about whether to even allow their children to participate in a sport with so much potential to permanently damage, possibly kill those who do.

Michael Keck, a 25-year-old former football player, has died in a similar manner as did the subject of a recently released film that focuses on concussions, CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) and the NFL. Brain research conducted on the former Division 1 college football player suggests that repeated trauma to the brain in the form of concussions suffered while playing football is to blame for ending the young man's life so abruptly. The findings to date strongly resemble those in the case used for a recently released movie, "Concussion," starring Will Smith. The film is based on the true story and researching findings of Dr. Bennet Omalu on pro football player and NFL Hall of Famer Mike Webster. Both this tragic story and the exposure given to this and similar stories by the movie have the potential to greatly impact the NFL and football in general, giving parents second thoughts about whether to even allow their children to participate in a sport with so much potential to permanently damage, possibly kill those who do.

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A linebacker and special-teams' player in Division 1 college football, Michael Keck had played from ages 6-22. Despite having suffered 10 concussions, he was never hospitalized. After transferring from the University of Missouri to Missouri State University, Keck experienced his second concussion while playing at the college level, at which time his grades began to suffer. After taking a year off and returning to the team, he began experiencing persistent headaches, neck pain, blurry vision, tinnitus, insomnia, anxiety, and concentration problems, which caused him to quit his junior year. His symptoms persisted and his health further deteriorated, with loss of appetite, abuse and aggression toward his wife, and suicidal thoughts.

While Keck is certainly not the first to have suffered from multiple concussions or be diagnosed with CTE, he is unique in having done a "series of cognitive and psychology tests" while alive that would help Boston University researchers discover and understand how CTE symptoms develop. Scans showed patterns of abnormal protein clumps throughout his brain, which is an indication of CTE. Tests also showed Keck having memory and recall problems, speech and language impediments, and difficulties remembering and producing line drawings.

After his death, his medical records and donated brain helped researchers conclude he had "post-concussive syndrome with possible CTE and major depression." Though there is more research needed to make further conclusions, researchers report that CTE "should possible be considered in young athletes who have repeated head trauma as well as persistent mood and behavioral symptoms."

Hall of Fame former pro football player Mike Webster, died of a heart attack at the age of 50. Dr. Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian forensic pathologist who studied his brain and is the author of "Concussion", the book on which the recently released movie was based, found a "concentrated buildup of tau protein" (neurofibrillary tangles) - typically found in boxers' brains due to excessive trauma - suggested potentially similar harmful effects on the brain. Right before his death, Webster had been living out of a van, tasering himself to cope with chronic pain, and fixing rotten teeth with super glue. Omalu believes the tangles were located in a region of the brain that affected his mood and personality, which left to his erratic behavior that "choked his personality...turning him into someone else."

Though the NFL announced a $1 billion plan to address concussion-linked injuries by paying players who suffer from diseases such as Parkinson's and Lou Gehrig's, it does not include CTE" since the research is in its "early stages." On the other hand, Will Smith chose to take on the role in the movie because he felt he must shine a light on the problem of repetitive head trauma in football.

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Sherlon L  on  1/10/2016 11:02:18 AM commented:

I've been playing football since I was 6, I love the sport but the injuries are too much I plan to play college football but with precautions of my health

Reyna S.  on  1/5/2016 7:22:41 PM commented:

I have read about many situations like this through articles online along with many school related magazines. The game of football is quite dangerous but it is one of America's most iconic sport is football and it cannot go away just like that. Although it can lead to concussions and even death, I believe that with the technology and knowledge we have today, there is a high possibilty to come up with safer drills, gear, and equipment. It will give everyone a peace of mind and safer for all the players everywhere playing football.

JM  on  1/5/2016 7:05:38 PM commented:

I am so sorry about these tragic events that occured currently and I must say, I have heard this issue throughout football related situations many many times and this issue is bigger than I thought and is becoming alot more common throughout the football industry. But if there is one thing we can do is study neurology and physical research on the human body because sometimes not even the victim who is physically affected cannot tell because it appears to be that symptoms seem small but can lead to bigger, more life-threatening injuries or even death. Make material adjustments to prevent any form of physical injury. We can fix this with just a few adjustments here and there and before you know it, injury in football will be a minor or no issue at all.

Suzanne W  on  1/5/2016 5:58:29 PM commented:

I am thankful for Dr. Omalu and his findings for CTE. As we can't stop living our lives and following our dreams, this is an example of why we have to pick and choose our battles in life. I personally would not recommend my children playing such a physical sport now that I know the dangers and the effects of repeated concussions. Hopefully parents will research CTE, and make the decision on whether or not it's worth it to them based on the possible harm that could be done. If I would have been educated on CTE at the time, my 3 sons would have had to chose another sport to show interest in other than football.

Keana hall  on  1/5/2016 4:12:02 PM commented:

When i seen the movie it almost made me tear up because they didnt even want that stuff to come out...like yes people have a passion for football but when it puts others in danger and the ones who are playing the game doesnr know the effects of this its terrible its like playing Russian Roulette except the person your playing with placed the bullet to where u would get shot and him not telling u or him not telling u the jist of the game but u just play.Its a sad story to endeed hear and like more and more players die from CTE And theres nothing to be done about it ..the football agency didnt even want the football players to even watch the movie so like what does that tell u about how much they care about your safety? ?!!

Allen k  on  1/5/2016 3:56:15 PM commented:

My uncle died ten years ago from dementia. Dimensia dose not run in my family. He played 9 years in the nfl. The nfl does not want to admit to the dangers of concussions. Shame on them

Vincent J. Tripodi  on  1/5/2016 3:20:17 PM commented:

I've played football since I was eight and the injuries kept getting worse as I was older. I had to stop before it got to the worse possible situation

GP  on  1/5/2016 2:07:40 PM commented:

This is a tragic story. The large number of head injuries reflect that football is a dangerous sport. However, as it being part of our culture we cannot simply quit the game. I believe research needs to be put in furthering the safety and protection of helmets and making minor adjustments to the game that will make it safer for the players.

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