The recent domestic violence incidents that have plagued the NFL have come to light and drawn scrutiny over the league’s poor response to brain trauma issues that are faced by players. Jovan Belcher, a 25-year old player for the Kansas City Chiefs, turns out to have been a victim of brain trauma, which might have played a part in his decision to shoot the mother of his child and then kill himself.
According to autopsy results, Belcher’s brain showed signs of serious damage. The neuropathologist who did the research on Belcher also confirmed that this has same problem exists with many of the deceased players who were once in the league. For players who are still alive, some of them struggle remembering things, have trouble sleeping and even show the signs of early-stage dimentia.
In an appearance on the show, “Outside the Lines,” Dr. Piotr Kozlowski said that Belcher showed signs of neurofibrillary tangles of tau protein, which is associated with chronic traumatic encephalopathy. This is also known as CTE, which is one of the nightmares that face former NFL athletes after taking so many hits to the head that their brains don’t function properly.
Belcher’s hippocampus was the most damaged section of his brain. This part of the mind is connected with memory, learning and emotion. This is relevant in legal action filed since Belcher shot his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, the mother of his 3-month old daughter. He then shot himself in the Chief’s parking lot.
It appears that there’s more to these domestic violence incidents than meets the eye. Rev. Jesse Jackson, among others, is calling for deeper investigations into the link between outbursts of violence and the brain trauma suffered by professional athletes.
Dozens of former NFL players have been diagnosed posthumously with CTE, a neurodegenerative disease linked to dementia, memory loss and depression. The disease, researchers say, is triggered by repeated head trauma.
On Dec. 1, 2012, Belcher shot and killed girlfriend Kasandra Perkins, the mother of his then-3-month-old daughter. Belcher then drove to the Chiefs’ practice facility, where he shot himself in front of team officials in the parking lot. While the murder-suicide reignited the debate over athletes and guns, it also increased the focus on a frequently overlooked issue at the time: the NFL’s domestic violence problem.
Belcher’s body was exhumed one year after his death, and his brain was examined two weeks later. Kozlowski was hired to diagnose the brain by court-appointed Kansas City attorneys who represent the interests of Belcher’s daughter. Belcher’s mother, Cheryl Shepherd, initiated the process of exhuming her son’s body to have his brain studied, attorney Dirk Vandever said.