Brain-injured athlete dies from self-inflicted gunshot wound

Miami mourns the death of Ray Easterling, a 62-year-old former safety for Atlanta’s professional football team who died last week of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His widow said that he had suffered one brain injury after another during years of taking hard hits in pro football games. The resulting concussions allegedly caused him to suffer from depression, insomnia and dementia.

The deceased belonged to a group of former football players who played pro ball in the 1970s. They recently filed a lawsuit against the league, alleging that the league concealed from the players the severity of the brain damage that they sustained when they were hit during games. Players weren’t told that concussions and other brain injuries were associated with the jarring hits that many players took throughout their playing careers. Unaware that they would suffer permanent, debilitating damage, players would return to the defensive line after a hard hit and suffer additional impacts.

The player who died had played college football at the University of Richmond. After his pro football career, he moved back to Richmond where he operated his own business and organized a youth football camp. Another former player said that he started to show signs of his brain injury about 20 years ago, when he was in his early 40s. “He’d start talking to you about one topic, and then he’d end up in another topic and he wouldn’t know how he got there.”

The dead player’s widow has said she will remain involved in the lawsuit against the football league. “Somehow this has got to be stopped,” she said.

Source: New York Times, “Ray Easterling, of Atlanta’s Grits Blitz, Dies at 62,” The Associated Press, April 21, 2012