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.
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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